It has been said that the church is the only army that shoots its wounded. Not only have I been in situations where this has been true, sometimes the church caused the wounds in the first place. I have been the victim of friendly fire and have observed others who have been targeted by those who should have been their friends.
I have seen friendly fire incidents take place in situations where someone is ostracized because he doesn’t fit the mold of the church he has joined. The offense could be something as innocuous as being socially inappropriate (as the group sees it), being too needy, being too outspoken or having a bad reputation. I have seen genuine, God-fearing believers rejected for superficial and un-Biblical reasons.
Jesus said that it would be better to jump off a bridge with a millstone around your neck than to cause someone to stumble in faith (a loose paraphrase of Matthew 18:6). Jesus takes this type of rejection very seriously and those who practice it will certainly be called to account.
If we are called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), certainly we should be able to find in our hearts the ability to love those who merely annoy us, especially if they are Christians. We do not have the luxury of putting out our brothers or sisters just because we do not like something about the way they go about life.
To be rejected by fellow Christians hurts far worse than any rejection by a non-believer. We expect that our atheist neighbor might have a strong dislike for our faith. We understand that our non-believing coworkers will think us odd for going to Church. What we don’t expect is that Christians would ostracize other Christians. To the pain of rejection is added the pain of betrayal, for rejection by other believers is exactly that: betrayal.
I have experienced this type of betrayal and it is difficult to recover from it. The wounds are deep and all the more painful for being unnecessary. One of the lingering effects of this woundedness is a reluctance to be open and honest, even in a healthy, supportive situation.
I encourage church leaders to conduct as many exit interviews as possible to find out why people have left your church. In some cases they left over preference issues (style of music, available programs, etc.), but sometimes people leave for more troubling reasons. If people leave because they do not feel welcomed or accepted, you have a serious problem.
Yes, there are some Eeyores out there that will never be pleased no matter where they go, but these are few. Do not allow yourself the luxury of thinking that everyone who feels left out or complains about things at your church is doing so because he has a critical spirit and will never be pleased.
Take the feedback seriously and learn from it. You may find that the reason that these people annoy you is because they highlight an area in your life which God wants to change.
Do not initiate a friendly fire incident in an attempt to avoid dealing with your own issues.
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