September 24, 2021 Pete VanderBeek

RI and churches held "hostage"


In last week's post I gave an example of emotional immaturity in an adult leader, which I experienced when I first became a Deacon. There are many more examples that could be given, but I'm hoping you each thought of your own as you read that post.

When you combine emotionally and relationally immature behaviours like those with a church context that believes we are to be "nice" to everyone, it gives those emotionally unhealthy people tremendous influence, and robs them of an opportunity to grow, and grow up.

I'm struggling to find an example that is far enough from reality yet will illustrate this well. Some churches have had struggles over the oddest things. I choose to continue with the example of the man who was convinced the KJV of the Bible was THE Bible everyone in the church should be trusting as God's true word. In reality the presenting issue could be anything from carpet colour to stained glass (or not) to bulletin format, to wine or grape juice (or pizza and beer for communion), and so on.

So the man very publicly in a council meeting has made it known that he believes this, and that he also believes that he can't trust the rest of us on council if we don't use the same Bible. (Here I will move to fiction) He prints off an article about the failings of the NIV and the correctness of the KJV and without asking permission, puts it in everyone's mailbox and has one of his children email it to everyone as well. He then asks for it to be discussed at council, with the pastor being called on to justify moving away from the KJV. The pastor writes an explanation of why it is a good thing to move away from the KJV, and it is discussed in a council meeting. The man remains adamant. His response makes clear he has not listened to the careful explanation at all, and is fearful of God's wrath if we no longer use that translation and its kind of language. He is not able to make careful reasonable explanation for why it should be the main translation we all use, except for pointing to that fear (which legitimately does terrify him within his own way of seeing things, giving urgency to his arguing, because he believes in arguing this he is saving the church).

The "kindness approach" or "the Christian thing to do" approach, if that is the culture of his congregation, will then keep using the KJV in public worship and meetings he is part of. In choosing that response to his lack of maturity, the whole is being paralyzed and held back. The spiritual growth of others in the congregation might be held back, because the Bible they hear in church is so hard to comprehend. That is what I mean by "held hostage."

Because of the man's clear lack of emotional maturity, the better approach, the harder one, is to start a conversation about that seeming (we could be mistaken) lack of maturity. The manipulativeness of his approach needs to be called on the carpet, and the fact that it is manipulative and fear-driven exposed. Privately, and maybe later publicly, if he does not change, he should be challenged on those aspects. With an emotionally immature person, continuing to argue the issue they present will be futile. But mirroring back to them how the behaviour of a tantrum in a council meeting is not unlike a child's tantrum in the grocery store might break through. Only people who have good relational intelligence can have this conversation with the person. Getting them talking about the fear behind it all, and the view they might have of God that creates the fear, might be productive. If no progress is made, then a conversation should be had about the lack of emotional maturity, and the lack of acknowledging how problematic it is, as something raising questions about the person's qualification to be in leadership.

This is, as I said, the harder approach. But it is leadership. It is actually also church discipling, or discipline. Allowing the negative behaviour to rule the day is not leadership, but it is easier.

I know that I have imagined a example situation that may have generated some objections. Comment about them below for us all, or send me an email and I can respond in a future post.

So I'll finish by stating that I am not throwing out making concessions on some questions. What I'm trying to point out is that this kind of immaturity needs to be challenged for what it is.