I believe I know why many churches compare themselves to a family instead of calling themselves a team. Americans get excited about teams, but teammates have to put their differences aside and cooperate in order to win. By contrast, many families are comfortable shouting each other down and then storming off to separate rooms to watch TV. You could say the standards are lower for acting like a family.
Let’s go ahead and concede that the Church is the bride of Christ and there are many wonderful, selfless, gospel-driven churches who magnify the name of Jesus. But churches have a bad reputation in the USA today because of those numerous and well-known exceptions where people behave so badly.
Recently a godly young man who is faithful in worship paid my wife and me a compliment. He told us he respects us a lot because our three kids have all grown up to be outstanding followers of Christ who seem happy and well-balanced. Then he added, “That’s particularly remarkable when you consider all that time spent in churches.” Even if you belong to a wonderful congregation, you wince because you do understand what he’s saying.
For a long time, American evangelicals have practiced selective morality. We have elevated a few sins to the level of unthinkable abominations; sins like sexual immorality, stealing, adultery, gambling, and drug abuse. But there are other sins which are just as malign which we have categorized as “routine:” evils like gossip, rage, division, dishonesty, materialism, and pride. In fact, you could make a good case that ordinary gossip and rage have destroyed more churches than adultery or homosexuality. Perhaps that’s why skeptical young people keep a safe distance from churches: they don’t trust our brand of love or our good judgment.
Both churches and families would benefit from a few lessons in being assertive. Don’t confuse that with being aggressive, which many of us have already mastered! Assertive means I can say something without embedding it with passive-aggressive rage. It’s the kind of speech the Bible mentions constantly:
- Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
- Matthew 5:37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
- Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.
Unlike Roberts Rules of Order which help us conduct snarky meetings in an orderly manner, the New Testament, our guidebook, deals with the nature of our remarks rather than the order in which we speak them. It tells us to restore a fallen brother “gently.” It coaches us to answer questions “with gentleness and respect.”
In the Kingdom of God, we should be sure that our speech is seasoned with salt. What’s more, we should not be accomplices when others practice backstabbing; we should gently help them make a course correction as well. I advised our church team on Sunday that there is a simple way to stop a circular firing squad at church, office, or home: just smile and ask, “Is this a team building conversation, or should we change the subject?” Don’t forget to smile!
For a colorful message on playing like a team and being assertive, click here.
I’ll explore this further next time we’re together. In the meantime, lift up the Cross!