The Cure for a Dysfunctional Church

Growing up, I heard lots of teaching on the gifts of the Spirit, and being Pentecostal/Charismatic; I saw lots of weird stuff under the guise of the move of the Spirit. As I was thinking about the extra emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit and the minimal focus on the fruit, the thought came to me, the Corinthian church was so dysfunctional because they didn’t walk in love.

Between First Corinthians chapters twelve and fourteen, there is a seemingly random discourse on love. Here is just a portion,

1 Corinthians 13:1-7 AMPC “If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). 3 Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. 4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. 5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. 7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].”

Reread those verses. In chapter eleven, Paul corrects the Corinthians for their shameful behavior concerning the Lord’s table, and in chapter fourteen, he corrects their misuse of the gifts of tongues and prophecy. The Corinthian church was not rightly walking in love for others or God; the services were dishonoring to Him. 

The cure for a dysfunctional church is to return to a proper understanding and practice of the love of God. Many in the church will say love accepts things God calls sin, that’s not love; love speaks the truth and pulls people out of wrong behavior. Love shows grace to an erring brother or sister, yet it still tells them they are off.

Many discernment ministries have morphed into disagreement ministries. Anyone they disagree with is fair game for attack. Attacking someone is not the same as correcting them. Paul is often pointed to in calling people out by name, but he knew those he called out by name, and his end goal was their restoration to God, which seems to be lacking in some discernment ministries. Even our discernment needs to be guided by the love of God. Our desire should be to recognize serious errors, not just disagreements. I continually ask the Lord to help me walk in love with those whom I disagree with because the bottom line is they are God’s servant, not mine. One thing I find helpful is to occasionally listen to those I disagree with teach, with the expressed purpose of finding the areas of agreement. 

We all have areas we don’t fully understand, places where we don’t have total light, and if I want grace, I need to be willing to extend grace. None of us have all the truth, and just because we are wrong in areas doesn’t mean we are outside the faith. Here’s where I will lose some people; even if someone holds a heretical belief, how do you or I know that they haven’t heard the truth, and if they did, their view would change? What if we prayed for God to bring someone across their path to help them understand the error and walk in truth? What if some prominent leader quit preaching that heresy and fully embraced the truth? Would you rejoice in that, or would you still demand that they shut down the ministry because of teaching that error? 

I know there is some nuance here, but I’m talking about the bigger picture of grace and love. We need biblical grace and love back in the church. We need to heal our divisions and walk in the fulness of Jew and Gentile being one new man in Christ Jesus. This will only happen when we say, Lord, show us the truth according to Your Word, take a wrecking ball to all of our wrong interpretations and man-made doctrines and bring us back to biblical truth. The cure for a dysfunctional church is the grace and love of God among the brethren; as we walk in the light of truth, God has given each one of us and help our brothers see truth and be willing to receive help from them as well.

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