by Mike Genung
Recently, a friend told me the following:
“Last week I went to church, in tears. I was hurting because of family issues, and was desperate to talk to someone. But I knew I couldn’t. Church isn’t a safe place to share your struggles; people are quick to judge, and I don’t want what I’m going through passed around the gossip grapevine.”
Although it broke my heart when she told me this, I’ve heard enough stories of men and women who’ve reached out for help at their church and been hurt to know it’s true. One woman told me the ministry leader she opened up to yelled at her. I’ve had several similar experiences of my own, one where, years ago, a pastor angrily told me to “just stop doing it!” when I confessed a sin I had been struggling to overcome.
Let’s not do that at Blazing Grace Church. While it’s impossible to control what anyone does, we can set the standard of what we want to be, and strive for it. So if someone comes to you with something hard they’re facing:
Focus on listening.
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Ask questions, don’t interrupt, and focus on getting to know the other person. Many people just want someone to listen and show they care. Avoid the temptation to throw out easy answers or cheap cliches.
Unless the other person gives you permission, do not share what they’ve confided to you with anyone else, for any reason.
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.
Exposing another person’s failures or sins to others, especially when they’re still in the healing process, can do a lot of damage. Multiply the wreckage even more if someone who is involved gets wind. If someone has entrusted you with their pain, which is the same as giving you a piece of their heart, keep it confidential.
Don’t preach, judge, or condemn.
Some Christians have a serious problem with going off on preaching tangents. These are the Little Pharisees, the religious people of our day who make it their mission to conform everyone to their theology and perception as to how the Christian life works. Let’s avoid the spirit of religion at this church, the root of which, is pride. Give others the breathing room to be a mess, even if they’re saying things you don’t agree with.
Restore in a spirit of gentleness.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
God’s heart for those who are ensnared in any kind of sin is restoration. We don’t need to “call out” those who want help, or nail them to the cross by exclaiming “It’s sin!” “His kindness leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Let’s work at being “Jesus with skin on” to each other, especially those who are hurting or ensnared, remembering that He was kind and patient with broken, hurting people.
What if someone comes to you for help and you blow it?
Make amends quickly, and don’t let it fester into a bigger mess. We all blow it, and can say things that either hurt others, or were off base. Own up to it, and move on.
BGC can be a great source of healing and encouragement for many if we can be a safe church.