Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT
In a world that is full of #MeToo #churchtoo #EmptyThePews and #silenceinnotspiritual, it is easy to understand why so many people are making the decision not to return to church. I am speechless and still reeling from the applause that Andy Savage recieved from those who heard his “confession” this past Sunday. Jules tragic story is all too familiar to me. However, the cheering response from the church, is sadly familiar as well. I, too blindly applauded my former pastor’s abusive ways for almost a decade.
This past week I’ve had flashbacks of sitting in my former pastor’s office for the first time. I shared with him secrets I had never told anyone else. I did not know at the time that I was severely traumatized from sexual abuse I suffered from my father as a child and desperately needed to be in counseling. I believed that reaching out to him for help was the best thing I could do.
A moment stands out in my mind in tremendous clarity. He asked me that day, “What do you want?” Without hesitation I said, “To be loved.” It was then that he opened up his arms, and I knelt by his chair and hugged him for several minutes. On that day everything shifted for me psychologically. In those brief moments, I felt for the first time in my life like I connected with another human being.
I have spent so much time trying to understand why that hug changed so much for me. Initially, I believed it healed me, but the fruits that developed in the relationship I had with this pastor later revealed that I had indeed swallowed poison, and slowly my relationship with this man began to suck the life out of me and bring great harm to myself and others.
I have come to understand since that time how very cautious we need to be about what or who we connect with. I think being adopted and not bonding with my parents made me even more desperate for connection. But we all long for connection. God made us for it. It is not good for man to be alone. True connection brings healing and growth. When we do not have good connections in our lives, it is easy to fall into addictive and harmful relationships that can appear to be a good thing, but really they are just Lies so clever that they sound like the truth.
If you are reading this blog I encourage you to really look at the connections in your lives and what they are producing. Do they encourage you to love others more? Have they helped you see the truth about the things in your life that need to mature and heal or have they caused you to feel stuck? Do they have you keeping secrets and minimizing harmful behaviors or are they encouraging you to be honest and take responsibility?
We can tell the difference between the good and bad connections by the fruits that they produce.
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Matthew 7:15-20 NLT
Jesus said we will be able to tell the false prophets by their fruits as well. When a pastor minimizes a crime of sexual assault he committed, no matter how many years ago, by calling it an incident, the fruit of repentance is not there. When a church applauds rather than weeps over such a thing, a healthy body is not present. Bad connections are present. This should cause us all in the church to take a long, hard look at what or who we are truly worshipping and recognize the need for repentance.
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
2 Peter 3:9 NLT
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT