October 14, 2013

Trouble, with a capital "T"

Seeing visitors at my church usually encourages me. In fact, I am on a committee that is working on reaching out to new people. But, some visitors, especially those who are overly enthusiastic about our church without knowing very much about it, make me feel wary. These people could be Trouble, with a capital T.

I live in an area of the country where gushiness is suspect. In fact, some of our local citizens refused to vote for Jimmy Carter because he smiled too much.

Furthermore, my experiences with those who seemed to love our church at first and then quickly became divisive make me proceed with caution. There was the retired pastor from another denomination who came into the church praising my husband up one side and left cursing him down the other. One previously flattering member wrote a lengthy libelous letter against the leadership and sent it to every member (and recent visitor) via certified mail. An ebullient lesbian couple wanted to join right away, without knowing the membership requirements, because taking communion was very important to them.

Thankfully, not every visitor with lots of positive comments turns negative and causes problems. But, every church will have troublemakers. A pastor's wife should be welcoming to new people while avoiding naivety. Romans gives an example of this. In Romans 15:7, Paul instructs us to "welcome one another as Christ welcomed you." A chapter later (Romans 16: 17, 18), he is warning "to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles." According to Paul, such people deceive "by smooth talk and flattery." Things are not always the way they seem at first glance.

Troublemakers leave a trail of destruction as they quit one church without being reconciled and try to take up membership in another one. These people enter your church like refugees with tales of how they had to flee the previous unbiblical church. When they first start attending, difficult people often have effusive praise for the new situation.  But, they seem to be on an endless quest to remake their current church into a perfect one by first tearing it down. Often, they challenge every authority that is not their own. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible says about these people, "the pretenses are plausible, when the projects are very pernicious."

Pastors loose sleep over the havoc that some people can wreak on the church. Their wives may feel saddened, especially if their husbands are mistreated. In addition, members of the congregation can be influenced or hurt by the sinfulness. But, the greatest offense is to the name of Christ. Matthew Henry says, "Their words and speeches have a show of holiness and zeal for God (it is an easy thing to be godly from the teeth outward)..." He adds, "Though they call themselves Christians, they do not serve Christ; do not aim at his glory, promote his interest, nor do his will, whatever they pretend." A person who does such things makes me wary. He or she is very troubling indeed.


  1. "A pastor's wife should be welcoming to new people while avoiding naivety." I've made mistakes in both directions over the years, and this is a good reminder.

  2. My husband and I were discussing this very topic recently. Our experience has been much as you wrote....the ones that seem the most supportive and full of praise in the beginning usually turn out to be trouble in one way or another as time goes on.

  3. My husband says to be "weary of those that meet you at the train station." Be careful of those who think your husband is the one that will bring health to the church. They often are the most critical, but at the beginning seemed to be the most supportive. I can remember one situation where a member was very critical, my husband kept loving them, and they broke down crying in my husband's office asking for his forgiveness when they had seen their sin. He cared for them despite their hurtful comments and unkindness to him. He spoke the truth to them, but was willing to talk to them about Christ and still be in a relationship with them. They said they had never experienced that kind of love before. It was beautiful to see. Being careful and kind is hard, and something that God has to give you great wisdom on. I read Titus 1 today and asked my husband if it was hard to read what he was required to be as an elder in the church. He said yes, it was very scary to see what God requires. Thanks for your honesty of what you have learned over the years.


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