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Confronting a Christian Leader (1)
Telscombe Church Pulpit
A Letter of Concern
A fellow believer shared with me about a Christian leader who yelled at some members in his class. Here is what this person wrote to me over a social platform (I edited the punctuation for clarity):
"One of the things the Bible talks about is how to deal with offense. I find that it is tough in the churches especially if you are dealing with a leader. This leader happens to be new and has zero experience. They are newly in a position, and by their behavior are not ready to be able to handle even one-on-one challenges that come within a group dynamic (never mind trying to watch over a group). This new person ended up yelling at the top of their lungs while trying to 'work out' and bring some understanding to a situation so that both parties would understand each other."
Approach with Sympathy
When you need to resolve conflict with your Christian leader, you should prepare your heart by asking the Lord to give you sympathy and love for your leader. Consider the Scripture below:
"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." (James 3:1-2, KJV)
It is not easy to become a good leader (deacon, teacher, elder, or pastor) because people will expect a leader to make few mistakes, if any (and we all make mistakes). Consequently, a leader needs much knowledge, experience, and maturity.
I once asked a panel of professors at a seminary whether their program taught students anything in regards to church management and people skills. They said that they taught knowledge, but it is up to local churches to train new minister.
Therefore, when you confront a leader in your church, you should take in consideration that all leaders make mistakes and offend others, and that they are ever in the process of becoming better and wiser leaders.
Check Your Motive
Be careful not to confront your Christian leader for selfish motives. You shouldn't be trying to make yourself feel good or to find fault in him (or her) only because you do not like them. Even if you are concerned about how their actions will affect your church's ministry, you should still pay attention to the main reason why you should ought to confront your leader.
If we look at Matthew 18:15, the Lord tells us that the main benefit of confronting our Christian brother is to gaining him, or winning him back. In other words, your main purpose should be to restore your Christian leader back to fellowship with you, the church, and God.
Whenever a Christian leader (or any Christian brother) misuses his role in the church, offends others, or misbehaves, that leader has builds up a wall of separation between himself (or herself) and God's children, and between himself and God. As long as that wall of separation stands, his relationship with the Lord, his ministry to the church, and his personal life will be lacking.
Lacking what? Look at what Jesus said in his prayer to the Father:
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20-21, KJV).
God has called us to live in communion with each other and with Him (in this world and for all eternity). Unity is with God and his children is the main thing that we are called to enjoy, and a main distinction that helps the world identify us as the disciples of the living Savior, Jesus Christ.
When we lose fellowship with each other and the Lord, we lose effectiveness in the ministry and joy with which God desires to bless us. Sin easily creeps in, and the Devil uses our lack of unity to destroy our ministries and churches.
The fact is that restoring your Christian brother or sister (in this case, your Christian leader) is of great importance to the Lord, because God is love.
Confronting Your Leader
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." (Matthew 18:15, KJV)
When confronting your Christian leader, the first thing you should do is talk to him (or her) privately about the issue. Do it in person; not by email or a letter (much less Facebook). Make an appointment with him: tell him you would like to speak with him, and ask him when and where that can happen.
If it is not possible to speak to him in person, a telephone conference may work too, but it will be harder to communicate because you will not be able to see each other's faces and body language (you will lack proximity).
When you meet with your Christian leader, I advise you to begin the conversation by establishing a connection. "How are you doing? How is your family?" If he has recently accomplished something, complement him (or her) on it.
Finally, tell your leader why you are meeting. "I want to talk to you about something that happened in the class recently: when so and so approached you about this and that, it seemed to me that you lost control and yelled at them, and ever since that happened I have felt uncomfortable in the group, and I wanted to point it out to you so it won't happen again."
A wise and humble leader will listen carefully, let you explain, and ask you questions about how you felt and how you expected him to handle the matter. While he may offer you and explanation to help you reinterpret the situation from his point of view, he will still apologize for the stress his actions have caused you, and will thank-you for being honest about your feelings.
Of course not every leader will respond the same way! One leader will accept your words with meekness, and another will struggle and become defensive.
So what should you do if your leader does not accept your version of what happened? What should you do if he becomes resentful or antagonistic?
On my next post, I will discuss the next step laid out for us in Matthew 18:16.
Do you agree with the course of action recommended by the author?
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Have you ever been offended by a Christian leader? Were you able to reconcile with them? How did you reconcile with them? If you did not reconcile with them, how did losing that friendship affect you?
- Have you ever confronted a Christian leader according to the principle of Matthew 18:15? How did it go? How did they respond?
- How much time are you investing to pray for your leader and for a resolution to the problem?