By Aaron Summers
Our family loves roller coasters. We have for years and I don’t see it changing any time soon. I remember the day all the family reached the height marker for high thrill rides. We could all ride together with no tagging out for the first time! Recently, we went to a park and enjoyed the coasters. I have come to realize that it hurts more than it used to when I get off the ride.
I am not stopping. I just take an extra ibuprofen.
When your church faces issues, regardless of the root cause, it can take an emotional toll. The rise and drop, twists and turns can create deep wounds. When emotions get hot we can lose ourselves in it. Church can get messy during these times. Frustration can turn to anger. Resentment can turn to bitterness. Friends can become foes. Lines are drawn, and people take sides. If you are a church leader, what do you do? James 4 gives us five checks we must make when conflict rises and joy drops.
Check #1: Motivation
James is dealing with a church that is facing troubles. The reason they are is because of runaway emotions and wrong motivations. When jealousy, envy and selfishness settle in we have fights. When we don’t get our way, it is easy to get angry and start talking about things we should not. The first thing we must lead our people to ask is ‘Why?’
Why are you doing what you do? Why are you thinking what you think? Why are you saying what you say? Does it glorify God and respect others?
Then stop. We must check our motivations.
Check #2: Dedication
James then instructs us to check our dedication. We, as followers of Christ, cannot be like the world and like Christ. Getting into conflict is the easy part – ignore God’s Spirit. However, when our dedication falters it is like a ship running aground on a sandbar. We get stuck. When Paul wrote Philippians, he remarked that we must rejoice, pray, focus our thoughts and practice what we have learned. This takes dedication.
To what, or whom, am I dedicated? Am I doing what God wants, when he wants, and how he wants it? How dedicated are you?
Check #3: Humiliation
No one wants to be humiliated, but the root of humility is found in it. James calls the church to humble themselves before God. We are to humiliate ourselves before God. We are to wash our hands. We are to purify our lives. We do this when we come before God and tell Him all the shameful, sinful things we have said, done or thought.
But God already knows this? Yes.
However, we need to tell it. We need to humiliate ourselves before God. This causes us be drawn close to God. The opposite of this is pride. Pride urges us to confess nothing, give up nothing, and rationalize everything.
This is not the way of Christ.
Check #4: Communication
There is a place for criticism and even judgement. However, doing so out of anger is not that moment. Engaging in those in a social media or public forum is not always the best way. Leading people out of conflict and chaos is messy business. It is not for the faint of heart. Making judgements is not accepted by most people today.
Here we must be sure we understand that this level of questioning must be done inside solid relationships. If John needs to be checked on dedication it needs to come from his close church friend Bob. If Joe, who is not in a good relationship with him, comes along and begins checking the dedication of John, it will be met with resistance.
What we say publicly needs to promote unity and peace. What we say privately to the person needs to glorify God and develop the person.
James goes deeper. He wants us to also consider how we talk to ourselves. Don’t snicker. We all do it! If our self-talk also denies God’s oversight because we just think, plan and do, then it is an easy transition to the former issues discussed in this article.
Check #5: Calculation
Verse 17 is a hard pill to swallow. James outright tells us that if we know what we ought to do and don’t do it then we sin.
Sin–that is a big problem, isn’t it? We must alert our church members of this very important fact. We must be checking our calculated actions. Our measurements are not about damage control or self-preservation. Our standard is Scripture. Is my life reflecting God’s Word? Too often we get caught up in emotion and start calculating our responses depending on the subject or person with whom we are talking.
All churches go through difficult times. How we walk through it together is key. Let us as leaders run these checks on ourselves and our people for the glory of God, the sake of the Kingdom and the future of the Church.
Summers serves as Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church of Crowley in Crowley, TX.