I've been preaching through the book of Nehemiah looking at some of his experiences/responses that we can apply towards rebuilding our lives/rebuilding our churches. This past weekend, we spent some time talking about the bullies that Nehemiah was dealing with in rebuilding the wall (focusing on Nehemiah 6). Among a number of applications, I mentioned dealing with bullies in churches.
We all have seen bullies in the church (maybe some of us have even been a bully!). Bullies are those who give ultimatums: "There will be trouble if ____________ doesn't change!" or "I will withhold my giving if _____________" or "I'm going to leave if ______________". Pastors often have to deal with real or implied threats if people don't get their way. This is a subtle (or not so subtle) attempt to intimidate (i.e., bully) the pastor or other leadership into getting their way.
But there is another type of bullying that is even more common and more insidious to the unity of the church: rumors/gossip (which, by the way, Nehemiah was dealing with also). We don't often think of this as bullying but consider some of the characteristics of rumors/gossip:
1. The source is rarely quoted. [I heard that...]
2. Exaggeration and inaccuracy are involved.
3. They are designed to hurt rather than build up.
4. Almost never shared in the proper setting (i.e., face-to-face with the involved party).
So how to deal with church bullies who spread rumors/gossip:
1. Understand the real enemy behind this. It is not the gossiper/rumor spreader--it is Satan himself (John 10:10). This is spiritual warfare--and must be approached as such.
2. Practice loving rebuke (Eph. 4:29). Refuse to listen or participate. Lovingly rebuking someone at the point of gossip/rumor is the most loving thing you can do for the gossiper (allows the Holy Spirit to do a work of conviction) and for those being gossiped about.
3. Make a choice to not yield to temptation. Yielding to listening to gossip/rumors or responding to them in the flesh (e.g., anxiety, frustration, depression, anger, desire for revenge) all play right into the enemy's hands.
4. Persist and experience God's strength. If one is in the middle of God's will, keep on doing and being what you have been. The power to harm and to divert you is stripped away from those who gossip and spread rumors.
God has already given us a road map for dealing with the sin of bullying (see Matt. 18:15-20). Let God deal with the bully--He will always be much more effective than you could ever be!
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