Perhaps this has not happened in your church, but in our church we occasionally have a person who joins the choir and then decides not to live by the standards of behavior to which they had agreed when they came in. We’ll sometimes have a Sunday school teacher who seems to wish to continue teaching their class but no longer wants to visit, no longer wants to live in accordance with the church’s stand on separation from the world, or to be faithful to the services as they had agreed. Or we’ll have a deacon who is glad to be a faithful soulwinner at first but finds it difficult for whatever reason to continue.
It seems to me there are three main methods of dealing with this kind of situation:
- We can be an ostrich. Of course, by this I mean that we can stick our head in the sand, pretend the problem does not exist, do nothing, and hope it gets better all by itself.
- We can be obstreperous. We can be in your face, on the front door the first soulwinning night they miss, waving the paper listing the standards and maintain the purity of our church by making everybody who ever struggles angry with us.
- We can be observant. Of
course, this would be my suggested procedure.
Being observant involves the following behaviors:
The Scripture says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13). Things aren’t always what they appear to be. Some who seem to be rebellious may be wounded. Some who seem to be upset may merely have indigestion, and some who seem to be backslidden may simply have schedule problems or other burdens.
I’ll never forget an incident in my teenage years which taught me of my dad’s adherence to Proverbs 18:13. Dad ran the Detroit City Rescue Mission, through which he sponsored a summer camp for inner-city children. One year when I was fifteen, a young lady came to counsel at camp. It happened that we were both at camp after church the Sunday night before the campers arrived. My dad walked by the kitchen and saw us sitting on stools next to each other. It appeared to him that every few moments I leaned down and gave this young lady a kiss.
Now stop and imagine what you as a parent might do in a similar circumstance. While I hope you would be cautious enough to wait until you had found the door, I fear that some of us would have burst through the windows or made a hole in the wall.
My dad, however walked around to the other side of the kitchen. From a different perspective he could see that not only was I not kissing the young lady, we were not even touching. I was about as tall as I am now (6’1”) and she was under five feet tall. She spoke quietly and as she spoke, I bent my head down to hear what she said. Dad did not tell me until some time later what he had observed. I have always been impressed at his patience, his fairness, and his loving tendency to “think no evil.” Sometimes it pays to just observe for a bit.
Once we are certain there is a problem, it is not necessarily time to act. Did you know that there are days a person’s heart is more open to instruction than others? Did you know that there are times and seasons in someone’s life when they may be ready to receive reproof and others when they may not be? For this reason we must be guided by the Holy Spirit to not only go in the appropriate manner but to go at the appropriate time.
When you do go to speak to the person, I would suggest the following procedure:
1. Look for needs that are unmet. Has this person received enough of your attention? Have they felt neglected in any way? Is there an area of their life where they feel you or the church are failing them?
2. Inquire as to their condition. Perhaps a statement such as, “Bill, I’ve been praying for you lately. I don’t know this for sure but I sense maybe you may have a special burden and I just wanted to see if there is anything you need or any way in which I could help you.” It may be that at this point, an issue would be raised that you can help which will solve the outward problem of their lack of faithfulness. However, many times a person will say, “No, I’m fine. Everything’s okay.”
3. At this point, I would mention the problem. “Bill, I’ve noticed that you haven’t been at soulwinning the last several weeks.”
4. Offer to help. “How can I help you in this regard? “What can I do to make it easier for you to go soulwinning?”
When people see that there is loving concern they usually respond well, and conflict can be avoided.