It is more than a decade since Mike Bickle first used the challenging phrase, ‘insecure pastors and rejected prophets’, but it is one that still seems to have relevance about it. The toxic issue of insecurity and rejection may affect us all in different ways, and we all have our own mechanisms for dealing (or not!) with it.
Many times our own problem is the way that we interpret what we perceive to be happening to us. There is of course, a selfishness about our personal circumstances that determines how our heart functions.
In our lowest moments for instance, few of us take time to consider “Is Christ being honoured in this situation, and by my reponse to it?’ – the supremacy of Christ in all things, can often be the least of our concerns. For me anyway, despite my best intentions.
I raise the issue of disapproval, because it is a real discouragement that people in the Church may face, and it’s also a plea to leaders to be careful with those who have been entrusted to them.
Disapproval is something you face often in life. You don’t have to look back in life to far, no matter your age, to find someone, somewhere disapproving of your words, thoughts or deeds. Sometimes, but not always, those deeds that led to disapproval also led to discipline.
What’s good about discipline?
Discipline shows that you are part of the family and loved! (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6) Leaders and churches that are committed to speaking the truth in love learn that church discipline is part of Church family life. If we truly care about people, we will not look the other way while they shipwreck their faith, destroy their lives and run from God. Discipline is not a hammer for crushing the wayward brother or sister – it’s a redemptive intervention that calls people to turn back to the Lord, who loves them.
In the process of administering discipline, we are reminded, every time, that we are broken and sinful people. Every elder, and every group leader and member of the Church is a forgiven sinner. We are still walking on trembling legs, and each of us needs God’s grace every day – more than we realise. We come to God, and before each other in brokenness and acknowledge that we too walk by grace, and grace alone.
After discipline there is always restoration, renewal, assistance and hope for both the present and the future. It’s God’s gift, and sets you back on your feet, running the race!
Disapproval without correction is different.
The person feeling under disapproval knows no way out from their circumstance. It is crushing, life-sapping, hope-destroying, vision-stripping discouragement, and leads to deep despair.
Sometimes one who feels such disapproval may not actually know what they have done wrong – if anything! If they had done something wrong, they could be disciplined and then felt the warmth of love, restoration, acceptance and approval again. But the rejection that comes from unwarranted disapproval without correction or guidance is not one that honours the redemptive, grace-filled work of Christ. Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
There is a time for disapproval.
We disapprove of sinful practice and urge people to live a life, not following rules of obedience, but to obey Him out of their love and honour for Him. We disapprove of ways of members of the opposite sex may treat each other with unhelpful familiarity, or inappropriateness. We do that by showing them what the Bible says and how they can honour God and each other, by walking in right-ways. (1 Thess 2:11-12) But to show disapproval without guidance, care or instruction so that one can change behaviour, words, deeds or ways of thinking, is to demonstrate contempt for that person.
The crushing rejection that comes with unwarranted disapproval leads to terrible despair.
Whether that unwarranted disapproval comes from an elder or a Church member – if it is done intentionally then it is something that requires repentance.
If you are feeling the pain of seemingly unwarranted disapproval you need to talk to your Church leaders and humbly ask them to give you direction, counsel and guidance through this. There may be areas of personality clash where you (and others sometimes) need to express forgiveness, make adjustments, and pursue restoration. John Wimber had a catch phrase which is really useful here, ‘your brother is never your enemy’.
Let’s remember to treat each other in a way that would honour, and represent Christ – and do it with the gentleness that Jesus expressed to others. He is our prime example.