Small Church Big Problem

A question posed by a reader goes like this:

Message: A female friend of mine had a brief affair with another member of the church. My friend sang in the choir with the man and his wife. The couple were longtime members with extended family members. My friend is single. The affair was exposed and everyone in the church was aware. My friend was asked to find another church by the pastor. She was upset that she was asked to leave, but I couldn’t understand why she wanted to continue attending services there. Was the pastor wrong? Just wondering. Addition: her sister recently moved in with her and plans on attending the same church and sing in the choir. This is a small community church just several blocks from their residence. This all seems pretty bizarre to me and asking for friction.

This breaks my heart for the congregation that is dealing with the fallout of this. It just goes to show that although sin is personal, it’s never private as it affects many and in this case it affects an entire church. It’s impossible for me, and maybe for you, to know what the details of this case are within the church.

Biblically we are supposed to try and restore a brother/sister caught in a fall. Then there’s the Corinthian church in the New Testament, where the son was having an affair with his stepmother and when he was asked to stop he refused, so they put him out of the church until he repented. I guess the question would be then, was there repentance? If there was repentance was there an attempt to restoration?

So let’s say the Pastor is really trying to do his job biblically. Did perhaps your friend not fully understand the ramifications of her action and therefore was put out of the church because there was no repentance? Obviously she’d have to step down from her ministry of worship and submit to the restoration process. Was this done willingly by your friend? If the husband wasn’t asked to leave was it because he showed true repentance and has submitted to the restoration process? The pastor and the church must consider that people who looked up to your friend as a member of her church family and even those in the community as the talk spreads but the details don’t, are affected by the hearts and actions of those involved.

One thing is for sure, the sister who has moved to town and wants to attend the church shouldn’t be penalized for her sister’s actions. I think in a small community church this actually could be hard on her since some may judge her by her sister’s action. Hopefully this group is more matured than that. I agree with you that it seems easier to find another church and avoid the mess altogether. Could it be that the sisters are a certain denomination and this church may be their only option to practice their faith?

Sorry I can’t be more helpful. I sincerely hope that everyone stay focused on Jesus right now and that you all continue to pray for your friend as well as the couple who all have repairs to make, not only internally, to each other, to the congregation and to their faith and God ultimately.

Thank you for reading and if you have further questions I will do my best to answer.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 8:14 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Tough situation.

    My take on it is that if the single woman isn’t honest about her problem and seeking help, then she is a liability to the community and destined to repeat the sin. If she is, then having her leave the congregation sends a message that we won’t tolerate our wounded and broken. Why is an affair any worse than lying? Why is it worse than greed or self-ambition?

    Just to put perspective on it: We lost Eden because our ancestors ate a piece of fruit. Everyone is bound to death now because of an “innocent” sin of eating fruit. How can a this single woman be any more guilty of the sin than the man with whom she had the affair? Why is he allowed to stay and the woman asked to leave?

    I believe this speaks to a problem in our thinking about grace and restoration. If the church really loves this woman, they won’t let her lie to them or herself and will take steps to make sure the truth is obvious. On the other hand, she’s a sinner saved by grace which means the same for all of us—while we were yet sinners, lost to sin, Christ died for us. The only reason anyone should be put out of community is if they refuse to repent, which only means to consider what they did as sin and take steps to make amends. If this woman cares about Jesus, then she should do all she can within the body to demonstrate her repentance by supporting the man and his wife in their efforts to reconciliation.

    However, most of us aren’t that forgiving or willing to remain in community with those who hurt or abuse us. The reasons are pretty clear that some take advantage of grace and use it to do greater damage. But this is where the leadership and body must work in concert to prevent further harm from occurring. We walk a fine line between helping people grow from lost sinners to sinners saved by grace. The change process comes from exposure and submission to Christ through the body.

    May be the single woman would be better to find another church, but the church she came from should be first in the process to restore and help not only the man and his family but her as the other broken party in the disaster. If we are unwilling to face our fallen or broken, we put a veneer of grace on our faces and lie to ourselves about the salvation we say we enjoy. The work of reconciliation is hard work and only those committed to its principles will find success. At the same time we cannot avoid the pain of such things—as if we could. To deny the process only causes the disease to spread behind closed doors and sins to go underground.

    Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost; to restore to health the sick; to repair the broken. His followers are called to do the same because we are commanded to be like Him.


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