Monday, September 8, 2008

Where's The Love?

I noticed over the years, in the church I was involved in, it seemed there was always a lack of love. There was a lot of teaching on faith and money, but not a lot of teaching on loving God and loving people. Since I had been in this one church for over 20 years, I knew nothing else and had nothing to compare it to. I wondered where the love was, but I came to the resolve that it must be that way in all churches. I see now that I had bought a lie. I went for all those years missing out on love, freedom, friendships, and most importantly a real relationship with God. I had settled for a counterfeit religion. Now that I am out from under the control and manipulation, I see how far off things really were.

I always wondered why many of the ministers I use to be around didn't seem to like people. In meetings I attended, ministers would stay in the back until the music had already started and then they would leave before the service was dismissed. It was very evident that they didn't want to be around or converse with the "common" people in the congregation. Why did they want to spend their time teaching the Bible to people that they really didn't even seem to like? Could it be that it was just a job to them? If they don't like people, then why did they go into the ministry to begin with? Being in the ministry is all about people!!!

I heard the same stories over and over about ministers who would mistreat their young apprentices. I heard of one old timer that had a young minister who followed him all the way to another country, while all along the way he ignored and mistreated the young man. WHY? Why wouldn't he want to be an example of God's love and kindness? In my mind, all this does is give people a false view of who God really is. This young man was looking to his mentor to learn the ways of God. Couldn't the mentor see that he was actually teaching him how to mistreat God's precious children? God always helps, leads, and provides for us. He never mistreats and leaves us to ourselves to figure things out. We shouldn't listen to these stories and just accept them because they come from behind a pulpit. If it doesn't resemble God's love, then we should rethink the whole concept. Someone may be able to preach a good sermon, but if they don't have love for others, then doesn't the Bible say it's only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal?

We were always told, "Don't look at the man, look at the gift." I have figured out that this is sometimes a convenient way to excuse moodiness or rude behavior. I have now taken that statement out of my vocabulary because I don't buy it anymore. The Bible says that we will know people are Christians by their love. It also says to test the spirits and look at the fruit. Where's the love in a pastor talking rudely to someone? Where's the love in calling someone a name from the pulpit? Where's the love in not accepting a person for who they are and refusing to see the good in them? I know a young minister who was spoken to in a very inappropriate way by a church leader. When the leader was confronted, he excused his behavior by admitting, "he was strongly lacking in people skills." What about using manners, or better than that, what about doing what's right? Enough excuses! When a leader is lacking in people skills, he should do whatever it takes to learn some. There are plenty of good books and classes out there to help people.

I heard one friend describe it as being "relationally dysfunctional." It made so much sense to me when he said that. I always thought that maybe I was the one that had the problem, because I got so nervous around certain ministers and couldn't even speak. But now I see that the multitude of people in the church are probably not the ones with the problem, but perhaps it is the leaders. I have come to the conclusion that some leaders were never taught people skills, good manners, or how to love.

A few years ago, I made the suggestion to the leadership of my former church that we offer the staff a class on people skills. I did a lot of research and presented it to the leaders. Of course, that didn't happen. After looking through the material, I found some of the basic principles this class would have taught.....

* Be a good listener and encourage people to talk
* Show respect for the other person's opinion
* Give honest and sincere appreciation
* If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
* Try honesty to see things from the other person's point of view
* Sympathize with people

There are so many kind, loving people in the ministry. You don't have to remain in a church governed by selfish leaders who don't care about people. If a leader has been conducting himself in the same way for 20 or 30 years, he's probably not going to change any time soon. You deserve more! You are God's precious child and He cares how you are treated. He laid out how he wanted you to be treated in the Bible. Is your church meeting the guidelines?

God's plan throughout time has consisted of people impacting other people. That's God's main goal for us - impact people for the kingdom of God. Ministry is not about "me" and what I can get from people, it's about being a servant. Jesus himself came to serve instead of to be served and He always chose others over Himself. Jesus is supposed to be the example for all Christians, including ministers. It's time that we realize that no one is better than another. The homeless guy down the street is just as important to God as the pastor of a church.

I was talking to a young couple who just came out of a controlling church and they admitted that they have never really known God's love. They have heard about the things of God all of their lives, but He seemed like a distant God who was only interested in making sure they followed the rules. I am on a mission to share God's love with them and help them see that what really matters in life is loving God and loving people - not all the legalism they have grown up in their whole lives. I believe there are many people out there in this same situation. When a person walks into our life, we should look at it as a God given opportunity to share His love with them. We truly have the ability to impact the lives of people on a daily basis. It only takes a kind word, a smile, and giving some of our time to show we care.

Where's the love? Let it be said of you and me, that God's love can be found here.


Anonymous said...

This is good. You and I are on the same page today. I have been reading "The God's Honest Truth" and just finished the chapter on rudeness. I went to church again, yesterday for the first time in several months and was so impressed. Your point about the homeless person being a precious child is interesting because the part that impressed me most about the church I visited was that they are planning a pot lock dinner for the homeless in my city. There is a particular bridge where many live and the church is going down there with food. Not to serve them, and feed them, but to sit down and eat with them just as Jesus would have. To me that is a good example of taking love out into the world. I honestly feel that these people want to love people; nothing for show or to impress anybody. They just want to be like Jesus. This church also sang "Hold my Hand" by Hootie and the Blowfish and it blessed me. I sat there thinking this would have NEVER been sung in my former church and I couldn't imagine what would have been said about it. It's a good song and was fitting for the message. I also wanted to thank you for recommending that book because I am enjoying it so much and realizing so many things about my Father that I hadn't realized before now.

Set Free said...

To Anonymous,
I am glad you are enjoying the book. It really opens your eyes to who God really is, doesn't it? I learned so much about His love from reading this book.

Anonymous said...

It is so refreshing to be free to love God and love people. All people. Not just those who fit all the requirements and measure up to "the standard". It is so wonderful not to have to shun others or discontinue a friendship because someone made a wrong choice or their kids went down a wrong path. It is so wonderful to be able to freely love just as we have been loved. It is so wonderful to realize we can still live in the world, love those in the world and not be of the world. I love your blog. I love being free. Free to love God and love people.

D said...

Wow, exact words from a conversation we had as we were leaving our former church..."where's the love?" It seems that some people are in ministry because it's an easy gravy train job. They don't care about people, at ALL. There's no excuse. They're hirelings and nothing more.
Jesus said that people would know we were His disciples by our LOVE for one another!

I'm reading The God's Honest Truth too and it's very helpful. Thanks for suggesting it.

Anonymous said...

Set Free,
I just want to thank you for the way you are relentlessly putting forth the truth, bringing light to unfortunate circumstances, and truly helping to set free those in desparate need. Just the other day I heard of yet someone else escape the control and manipulation of our former church. This was after reading your blog daily. This blog is an awesome tool that God is using to help people become setfree. Thanks again!!

Anonymous said...

I have often thought the same thoughts you have expressed in this post but was afraid to say them out loud. I have noticed that it seemed that some of the well known ministers in our "camp" didn't seem to have a heart for people. You have really made me think about some of the hard issues and it's all becoming so clear to me now.

Thanks for all of the links you add to your blog. They have helped me more than you will ever know.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing more fulfilling than showing God's love to people. I believe the it's because we are all "called" to do it. What is better than fulfilling the call of God on your life? We can do it every day if we just open our eyes to the opportunities set before Walmart, at work, or even just driving down the road. And you are right, love is what will draw people into the kingdom of God!

Excellent post! We should all take a look at the love walk of the people we choose to put in authority over us. Sooner or later, their attitude and actions will be reflected in your life and how you deal with people. And EVERY BELIEVER and EVERY CHURCH is called to LOVE!

Set Free said...

You are right in saying that sooner or later the attitudes of the leaders will show up in you. I saw wrong attitudes - critical attitudes, that I didn't want to show up in me or my children.

Haven't we heard for years that we will become like the people we hang around?

Anonymous said...

I heard that a young man was recently called a punk by his former pastor. Where is the love in that? How can the people that are still there not see that there son could be next?

Back when I was growing up, we got in trouble for calling names. At the least, shouldn't a pastor of a church be an example to the kids in his church. But I guarantee you that there were youth sitting in that service that said, "If my pastor did it, then it's okay if I do it."

Come on people! Wake up and see that this is not what church is all about!

Set Free said...

To Anonymous 10:35,
I got in my car many times and corrected something that was said in a service. My kids actually said that very thing you talked about - "You tell me I can't do it, but he does it. If the pastor does it, then isn't it okay?"

I know no one is perfect and not everyone will say everything just right all the time, but anyone(even a child) knows that calling names, criticizing people, and embarrassing people is not appropriate.

Susan said...

"Love" led 144 people at my church to sign a card that they committed themselves to Jesus this past Sunday! Praise God!
1 John 4: 7-10. Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
What a wonderful, heartfelt post. May God's love always be found in us and in our churches!

Set Free said...

Thanks for the comment Susan.

It's awesome to hear about all of those people committing themselves to Jesus at your church. Those are the reports we are supposed to hear coming from churches.

I have heard people say, "Where would we go if we leave this church and who would teach us the Word?" We heard for so many years that there was no other place but that one church we were involved in. BUT there are places! Great places that lead people to the Lord, love people, and meet the needs of so many. I know many families have found a place and my family has too. It's great to be in a place of love and freedom.

If there are people out there wondering what you would do if you left, I promise you there are great churches to take your family to. When you are told that there are no other places teaching the Word, it's not true. I have heard messages in the last couple of months that have changed my life and taught me what being a Christian is really all about and it's not what I thought before. It's about knowing how much God loves us and it's about loving Him. It's about loving others and bringing people to Him. It's not about getting more money, worshipping a man, and being selfish!

I also want people to see that when people mistreat you, it's not right. I know we are told to "walk in love" and overlook what people do, but love doesn't mean letting people treat you like dirt. I think sometimes leaders throw that phrase around to manipulate people and to make them be quiet and accept any form of treatment. I wish I would have stood up to the mistreatment years ago. The truth needs to come out about the control that goes on. If we don't tell what we have learned and what we know, many will stay in it and continue to be hurt.

If you are looking for a church, you can contact me and I will tell you about the church Susan attends and I will tell you about the church I attend. They are both great places. There is not just one church that you have to go to. There is not one man that you have to honor and follow for the rest of your life. The Bible just doesn't teach that. God wants you and your family to be fulfilled and happy. He wants all of your needs to be met and that includes the need for friendship, fellowship, counsel when you need it, someone to visit you when you need it, events for your family to attend, people to love your children, and people to love you - people who are just following Jesus and putting Him first.

Like I said in the post, if it seems that people say the right things and sometimes even use scriptures to make their point, if they don't have love, it's nothing! Don't stay in a place for fear of not being taught the Word. You have a Bible and you have the Holy Spirit. That's really all you need. The Bible actually says that because you have the Holy Spirit you don't need any man to teach you. A good church is just the icing on the cake.

Thanks everyone for all of the comments you leave! It makes a difference.

Anonymous said...

This post and the comments that followed are fantastic! It's great to encourage eachother and remind eachother to walk in love and follow leaders who walk in love.

I will never forget the first time I went to another church after leaving the controlling church that I was in. It was quite an experience:

The pastor gave an incredible message. It was scriptural and humble. It was taught out of a heart of love with no selfish motives behind it. I felt clean when I left. Then, as he dismissed, he encouraged everyone to come back the following week. Then he made a statement I will never forget. He said,"We'd love for you to join us next Sunday, but if you don't feel like this is your home church, please give another church a try. Keep visiting until you find your 'fit'." Then he told them to contact him and he'd refer them to one of the "many great churches in the Birmingham area". I thought that was an amazing thing to do! He cared about the PEOPLE and wanted them to find a home church--even if it wasn't his! That's LOVE!

Set Free said...

Now I see that the "proxy" server user is visiting my blog too.