One of the fastest ways to lose a Church member who has fallen into some kind of error is to take away all of their privileges indefinitely.
Too often, many who have made mistakes are not allowed to participate in Church services in any kind of way, not even to testify.
They are expected to remain faithful to every service, still pay their tithes and follow all the rules hereon, but simply appear and “take a seat.” Right here, something should tell us this does not sound right.
I suppose the worst thing you can do to a preacher is not allow him to preach. Same goes for a teacher, whether it is Bible Study or Sunday School or even Music.
Consider the idea that many of these people have been doing this job, and often doing it very well, for many years even.
They are called of God, nobody doubted it before they got into trouble. So often the Spirit used them and they made great impressions on the lives of those they ministered to.
Perhaps they were just very good saints who were helpful to others, faithful and always tried to have a good spirit, maybe worked in the altars and perhaps excelled in the Ladies Auxiliary, or did a great job cleaning the Church, or driving a Church Bus.
And now, they are nothing, no voice, as if everything they ever did for God or his house was forgotten.
I have a feeling we might still allow them to clean the Church or drive the bus, but taking a seat is taking a seat.
Musicians. What if you grew up playing music in Church and singing there all your life, you don’t even know anything else?
Most will not know what it’s like to be a piano or organ player and give your whole life to that and then not be allowed any where near an instrument during a service.
Someone who sang in the choir and was dedicated and faithful, a good singer and easily taught, when the choir marches up to the choir loft, they must only sit and watch.
If you leave all of these people in this situation too long, you are going to lose them for good.
When someone has problems or has made a mistake, the longer they remain benched or pushed to the outside, the further away they get.
Remorse, guilt and self-anger can cause a person to give up and the absolute worse thing they can do is to begin to feel like, “Well, I did this one thing wrong and blew it, I might as well do the rest and be finished with it. What does it matter anyway.”
Especially with an “I told you so” or “How could you?” attitude from the other saints who are looking down their noses and talking it too often among themselves.
Maybe this person is hurt, angry or bitter at the moment and isn’t even coming to Church for a while. Trust me. The longer they stay away, the more likely they are not to return.
Let me be a bit curt. This ain’t little Bo-Peep. Leave them alone and they won’t come home.
The need for a Plan: Sometimes they have to take a seat for, for a while.
There must be time for reflection, for one to figure out where they went wrong, for time make the amends needed and for time for themselves, for prayer, study and meditation.
We have to be honest that the seriousness of the infraction can determine how long someone might need to recover.
When I think of some of the minor infractions some did in the past and the severity of the punishment that followed, I cringe.
I’ll stick my neck out with the most common ones, like, trimmed the ends of their hair, bought a television, slipped off to see a movie, wore a pair of cutoffs or shorts while at a friends to go swimming, let the hair grow over their collar, used some clear fingernail polish, drank some beer or smoked a cigarette, I could go on but I’m not.
In many cases, it wasn’t adultery, or murder, fornication, theft, and if it was, there was no plan.
No guidelines for any one in trouble to follow that would lead them back to safety and reconciliation, with themselves, the people who were harmed, or their Church family.
Come to Church, pay your tithes and sit. Oh I know, demanding that they come to the Church and pray an hour a day surely was helpful…. but most of the time, it didn’t work altogether, because much more help was needed.
Even prisoners being released have a length to their probation. They can look forward to a time when they can be free again without supervision and they know what is expected of them if they want to get there. Not us.
I suppose it will never be important to us until it is our son, our daughter, or husband or wife or one of our children or other family member, or, God forbid, us.
You know, I’m choosing my words carefully, but a spiritual minister on Facebook made a comment that certain high Church officials seem to be able to restore their own children and buddies to their positions, but didn’t seem too interested in what was happening on the local level.
He said it. We all know some. And while I’m at it, perhaps I should state that I do not feel it is the sole authority of one man or woman in any given Church to make all these decisions on when, where or how to deal with fallen people.
There’s been enough of that. Since the members of any congregation are saints of the most high and the Bride of Christ, let alone the sole financial supporters of the entire outfit, they have a right to be included and consulted about what should be done with one of their own brothers or sisters.
Jesus gave clear guidelines about how to handle faults among us. It’s nothing like what we’ve done.
There’s no need to talk about Restoration. I and many others [on Facebook] have written and talked and shared enough to know that most don’t want to hear it. So be it. This is not for you.
My hope is to share a little of my journey, my own personal experiences with someone it might benefit, someone with a heart who is willing to look at some of the things we’ve done in the past that simply didn’t work or to reach out to someone who might start a new trend, a new wave of caring and love that will cause people to be drawn to us and what we have to offer, Jesus Christ in us.
A comment has been made about our group being a powerful army that shoots its wounded. I could tell you exactly where that statement came from and who said it. I was there, at a very large gathering of us.
It went over most people’s heads. A wonderful, loving, very well known and gifted person whom I’ve also known most of my life. No one would have ever expected this person to say such a thing, they are very humble. Sadly, it was true and still is.
Micah wrote, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: When I fall, I shall arise.”
I hate to disillusion some of you, but he did not say “IF” I fall, he said “when” I fall. We all fall. You can agree with that or not, everyone of us in our own way and some much worse than others, emotionally, physically and even spiritually.
This doctrine of “one strike and you’re out” did not come from the scripture and certainly not from Jesus Christ or his Apostles.
There are only some extreme measures when it is right to shun or ignore a brother and even that was not to go on too long.
I leave you with this one thought. An organist should one day be sitting back on the organ where he or she belongs.
A teacher, called to teach should be back in their class room one day behind the desk where God called them to be. And a minister, should one day stand before God’s people again as an oracle of God, doing what he or she was called and gifted to do.
The timing is up to God’s people and just how hard they are willing to work.
We’ve lost so many, and we’ll lose more if we don’t shorten this “bench” time and get these people back to work. Otherwise, we might be the next one to “take a seat.”
First Published: November 1, 2010.
~ Robert Blackburn