Church can be frustrating


Do you ever feel like venting your frustration to the world about an issue that is near and dear to your heart?  (In some ways this is what blogs and social media seem to be filled with). Sometimes you can be frustrated by the apparent lack of importance that those who surround you place upon that which is important to you.  This frustration is compounded inside of the church, especially when the apparent lack of importance to what you are passionate about comes from those with whom you are in fellowship with inside of the church. Frustration can go to an even greater level inside of the church when it is your pastor or other church leader that seems disconnected from that which is important to you.

Many churches have schisms, fractures or splits in situations like these.  In other cases the frustrated church member simply quietly leaves the congregation, sometimes finding a new church home but unfortunately in many cases they simply leave the church.

In many cases frustration in the church can come in an area of ministry or outreach.  Believers who feel called to a certain ministry or to engage in outreach to a certain group of people that others in their church or their church leaders don’t appear to be concerned about regularly experience this type of frustration.  Many times people feel out of place, undervalued and in some cases they are made to feel like their passions are beyond the borders of what is normal or that perhaps they are overzealous or too radical in their beliefs.

Eventually that frustration has to go somewhere.  Intense emotions and frustrations have to be vented. They have to come out raw, unfiltered, unpolished, with no pretext, context or desire to be vague, non-specific or political in your delivery.  There are moments when your heart is full and it needs to overflow.  It is in these moments that your heart needs to release itself to heaven and not to other people.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

I have been down this road on many occasions. A church can be a very frustrating thing to be a member of. You can feel connected to Christ and disconnected to those with whom you are worshipping simply because the passions you have for the church and ministry are different from that which seems important to your church and to those with whom you fellowship and worship.  You find yourself asking rhetorical questions to God like:

  • How can this not be important to them?
  • Aren’t we called to reach this group of people?
  • Doesn’t the bible say that we are supposed to do…?

If you allow your flesh to take over those rhetorical questions will start to turn into gossip and even creating division within the church as they turn into statements like this:

  • My ministry is not considered important at this church
  • I guess our pastor doesn’t feel he is called to support the Great Commission unless its what he is doing.
  • Well, if I were the pastor I can tell you that we would place a greater importance upon…

Perhaps this sounds familiar to you.  My sincere hope is that it does not and that this little message is completely preventative sharing for you.  However, if you find yourself frustrated by these types of situations I want you to know a couple of things.  One, you are not alone. This is something that most believers go through at least once and in many cases multiple times. Two, being frustrated in this type of scenario is not wrong and is not sin, but if handled in the strength of your flesh it can quickly turn into sin.

We are a member of the body, not the entire body.  It is quite common for brothers and sisters to have different priorities and even disagreements over how things should be done.  This happens in marriages, friendships, business relationships, families and especially in the church.  Any place that is founded upon love and fueled with passion for things that are paramount to who we are as people is going to have its share of challenges in the relationship arena.  We find an example of this in the New Testament:

After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there. (Acts 15:36-41 NLT)

So…what is the answer when you are feeling frustrated in your calling, gifting, ministry or with your church?

Here are a few suggestions that have helped me over the years and that i still regularly have to use in my life.

Determine who really has the problem

Here is a list of questions I take myself through in moments of frustration:

  • Are we in direct rebellion to the written Word of God as a church? (if not…)
  • Is it me? Am I the one with the problem?
  • Am I trying to force my ministry agenda upon the church?
  • Is it possible that the church just isn’t in the position to realign resources and congregational vision to take on a project that I feel God has laid upon my heart?
  • Is it possible that God is calling “me” and not “we” to this area of service?

Understand that we are all necessary

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NLT)

We are all called to love and serve God and each other but in most cases God has laid different areas of service upon each of us. He has a plan to reach the entire world and in order to do so He has called us (given us passion for) different people groups and different ways to bring the love, truth and power of Christ to them.

If we allow the fact that we are not all the same to settle into our hearts and minds it can be very liberating, especially in the arena of ministry.  You are not me and I am not you and that is 100% OK with our Father in heaven.  If fact, He made us unique.  So…stop allowing the fact that God has an individual plan for your life that is attached to a purpose, vision or mission that not everyone else has, perhaps that no one else has frustrate you.  Allow yourself to see the wisdom of God in making us different, calling us to different things and yet empowering us each with His Spirit to accomplish those things.

We are all different and yet we are all necessary.  Don’t allow yourself to feel separated by your distinction. Realize that it is your distinction in gifting, calling and ability that allows you to bring true value to the Kingdom of God and to your local church.  We are all called to be like Jesus and conform to His image, not the image of other believers.

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters,[c] by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT)

Realize the grass is never greener

There is no perfect ministry. There is no perfect church. There is no perfect pastor or church leader. There is no perfect….only a perfect Savior of imperfect people.

Wherever you end up as a church attender, volunteer, member or otherwise you will always find things that you like and things you do not like. There will be people who cause you to be inspired to follow after Jesus with more passion and people that stir your frustration.

There will be ministries and services that delight you and those that frustrate you. There will be times when the church causes you to feel proud that you are a member and times when you don’t want to be associated with them.

On the other hand, the same will apply to you and to me. Love is always the answer. Grace is always the answer. Truth is always the answer. They cannot be separated they must work together.

We can label each other by unflattering terms and break fellowship looking for those who have “the right Spirit” or “a true passion for Jesus” only to continue to find imperfect people serving a perfect Savior. The grass will always appear to be greener but will always have something wrong with it for the simple fact that people are there.

Conclusion

Vent your frustration to the Lord. Don’t couch it, edit it or shy away from sharing how you truly feel.  In this process be willing to allow Him to challenge your assumptions and show you the rest of the situation. Don’t make the prideful mistake of assuming your point of view is the only correct one.  Many lovers of Jesus have found themselves in disagreement with each other while completely in love with their Savor.

Pray for those who seem to cause you the greatest frustration.  Don’t pray prayers that God would change their point of view to your’s but allow yourself to pray for them in love and you will find that it is your own heart that God ends up changing.

Never compromise the Word of God. However you may want to consider that you are not the supreme authority on scripture and be willing to at least listen to why a fellow believer feels they way they do.  You may be able to share something they have not heard before but you may also find that they share something you have not heard before.

Keep the main thing the main thing, Jesus.

Very often you will feel pressure to leave your fellowship and find a new, “better” place to fellowship but rarely will that compulsion come from heaven.  Most of the time it comes from your flesh wanting validation that you are right but because you are a “church” person you have given frustration a spiritual term.

If the world is going to receive the gospel it is going to happen in millions of different ways not just your way or my way. God is going to use each of us in different ways to bring His Word to those whom He loves.  My encouragement to all of us is to cease from creating internal frustration and church related strife and to focus our efforts upon that which is truly important; winning the lost.

For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 NLT)

The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them. (Acts 4:32-33 MSG)

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Focus


I was reading earlier today through the Gospel of Matthew and this passage of scripture seemed to jump off the page.  I have been thinking about it all day and here are a few thoughts that I wanted to share.

“One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away.” (Matthew 16:1-4 NLT)

The context of this passage of scripture is quite extraordinary. Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Matthew begins with Jesus in discourse with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law concerning ceremonial hand washing prior to eating. The Lord uses this discussion to emphasize His desire that our hearts be pure not simply our outward words and actions. Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides who were teaching man-made ideas as  commands from God.

Chapter 15 continues with a Gentile woman seeking Jesus for deliverance for her daughter. Verses 29-31 tells us of Jesus healing many people, “The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.”  The Chapter closes with Jesus feeding 4,000 people with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish.

It is into this setting of miracles and healing that our passage of scripture in Matthew 16:1-4 is spoken. Jesus had shown sign after sign, miracle after miracle, healing after healing and had spoken the Word of God with power yet this group of Pharisees and Sadducees wanted a special sign, something they said would make them believe that Jesus was Messiah.

FocusWhere was their focus?

How had they been there for everything that had take place prior to this demand for a sign and still needed to ask for a sign?

Any answers we give will be conjecture or an educated guess.

Perhaps they were so caught up in their presuppositions concerning Christ that when Jesus revealed Himself and did not meet their expectations they were unable to depart from their incorrect assumptions about what Christ would be and embrace the living Christ.

Unfortunately many of us as believers fall into this category at times.  We see that things are happening in churches and in places around the world that look like they could be from God but we are unsure because what is taking place doesn’t fit inside our idea of how God should move or who God should use.

Don’t feel singled out if this has happened to you, even John the Baptist needed to be reassured:

“When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” (Matthew 11:1-6 NLT)

  • Jesus changes lives.
  • Jesus transforms our hearts.
  • Jesus heals our sickness and repairs our brokenness.
  • Jesus provides grace to the unworthy.
  • Jesus makes us righteous.
  • Jesus makes us new.

Jesus will use people we would not have chosen.  The Holy Spirit will move in ways that we would not expect. Let our focus be upon Jesus; He is the King of His Kingdom and He can work how ever and through whomever He desires.

As a follower of Jesus I love to be in His presence for no other reason than who He is, God.  There is no one like Him.

As a follower of Jesus I also love to see the manifestations of His grace, love and power in my life and in the lives of others.  There is nothing like seeing a life changed by the Lord.

We are not asked to choose between Jesus and His power or between Jesus and His manifestations.  We are simply commanded to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus must be our focus. Jesus must be at the center of all we are and all we do.

How do we keep Jesus at the center? How do we remain focused on Him while seeking the power and presence of His Spirit to be manifested to a lost and dying world?

At the most basic level we must not allow our ministry, work, family  or any other aspect of our loves to become the focus of our lives; Jesus is the focus of our lives.  Our Savior said it this way:

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 NLT)

Those are really strong, really explicit words.  Jesus want to be our focus. He wants our love for Him to outweigh every other person or possession in our lives.

As we look back through church history both recent and distant we will find that anytime Jesus was not the focus of the church the church became something other than that which the New Testament says it should be.

For the last twenty years I have been involved in the part of the church that believes that the signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit that were demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ, His Apostles and followers in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts  should be a part of our lives in the 21st Century.  Many people refer to those who believe as I do by many different names, “Full-Gospel, Charismatic, Pentecostal, etc.”.

I, like many others inside and outside of the church, have been witness to gross excess,  heresy and even blatant attempts at deception by those whose ministry is focused on delivering a “Holy Spirit side show” to people and not on Jesus.

However, like many others inside and outside of the church, I have been witness to the genuine tangible moving of the Holy Spirit in signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit has promised in the Bible.  Our focus must be on that which comes from the Holy Spirit and not what people seek to manufacture in the name of the Lord.

Scriptures like Mark 16:15-18 and Acts 1:8 tell us that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit will follow those of us who believe.  This supernatural promise is to be the norm for the New Testament believer.  It is not a rarity nor is it something that we must beg the Lord to do.  He works through our lives in the power of His Spirit because of His grace.

Let us not be like the Pharisees and teachers of religious law of Matthew 16 that demanded a sign or a wonder from Jesus when they were standing before the Lord. I pray that our focus would be upon Jesus. For it is only in His presence that we become like Him. For if our focus is on the Lord Jesus we will find that He will make us the sign and wonder that points to the goodness and glory of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:5-7 NLT)

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