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 LSB “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.4 Love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous, does not brag, is not puffed up;5 it does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered;6 it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;7 it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

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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