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There is a lady in my church who has become very involved in a certain form of parachurch Christian ministry. She is extremely gung ho about it and pressures church members to participate. She has also organized a conference, bringing in speakers from the national level of the ministry. The elders/pastors approved it, but there is some disagreement about bringing in outside speakers, charging attenders so much for tickets, and the fact that it is mainly drawing people from outside our church who are already involved in this ministry, not necessarily discipling our own church members, yet our church members bear the work of the conferences.

We, her friends, have watched her continue to insistently push this ministry agenda. She freely admits to being pushy and asks us to keep her accountable, but she continues to push and becomes frustrated when challenged. I have met with her one on one and discussed this, and she now avoids me. I guess my question is, is it right/OK for me to now keep my distance from her? Is it OK for a woman to push a ministry agenda in the church?

Every once in a while a situation arises at church that leaves you feeling like, “Church is great…except for the people.” I’ve felt that way many times over the years, and I’m certain many people have felt that way about me. Personality conflicts at church can be difficult to deal with, but they’re a great “homework assignment” from God that – if we approach them biblically – can help grow us and the other person in Christlikeness. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects of this reader’s situation.

Doctrinal clarity on the ministry:
I think the first question on the minds of many of those reading this article is going to be, “What kind of parachurch ministry is this?”. Because, if it’s a ministry that centers around false doctrine or is led by false teachers, that’s your answer right there.

I edited out references to the particular ministry the woman is involved in a) to protect my reader’s anonymity and b) because the reader assures me the issue isn’t the ministry itself, it’s the agenda pushing. I’m very familiar with this specific parachurch ministry. It’s doctrinally sound. The situation would be similar to someone getting very involved in pro-life ministry, for example.

Doctrinal clarity on the behavior:
From what the reader has described in her e-mails, the woman’s behavior, while annoying and possibly concerning, does not sound like it has reached the level of actual sin. The parachurch ministry is doctrinally sound, and she thinks it would be beneficial to her church. She has received approval from church leadership. It doesn’t sound like she’s being deceptive in any way or doing anything the Bible clearly prohibits; she’s just very excited about this ministry and wants others to be as excited and on board as she is. That’s not sin, it’s just off-putting to others who aren’t interested. We need to be clear on the biblical fact that just because somebody does something that aggravates us doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sin. And if it’s not sin, it shouldn’t be treated as though it were. (I’m not saying the reader is doing that, just a general concept all of us should be mindful of.)

Church leadership:
If this woman is bringing in conferences, speakers, and other events that utilize the church facility, she’s not doing it without the approval of the pastor and/or someone in leadership. What that means is, as much as other church members may not like it, the buck stops with the pastor/elders, and they have given their approval to the activities thus far. If they are having a problem with this woman being pushy with them, it is their responsibility as pastors and elders to sit down with her and put a stop to that. If the pastor/elders are aware of, and have a problem with ticket prices, church members doing all the work, and the other problems you mentioned, it is their job to address that. I understand your concerns, dear reader, and having dealt with people like this before, I certainly empathize, but if you insert yourself between this woman and the elders – regarding her pushiness with them or issues it’s their responsibility to address – you run the risk of becoming pushy yourself and stepping in where you don’t belong.

If you think the pastor and elders are unaware of pertinent information regarding this situation, talk to your husband about it, and pray together for wisdom as to if and how you, he, or both of you should approach them with the information, remembering that, as a godly wife, you need to respect and defer to your husband’s decision. If the pastor and elders receive the information and continue to approve the parachurch ministry conferences and activities, then your disagreement is with the pastor and elders, not the woman pushing the agenda.

Body parts:
You’ve asked if it’s OK for a woman to push a ministry agenda in the church. No, it’s not. It’s not OK for men to do so either. First Corinthians 12 compares church members to the various parts of the body. While “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,'” neither can the hand say to the eye, ear, nose, foot, mouth, etc., “You have to be a hand, just like me.”

It is absolutely fine to be excited about a ministry or a project at church and to invite and encourage people to participate in it, but crossing the line from inviting and encouraging to pressuring and badgering is not appropriate, biblical, or loving. It puts your brothers and sisters in the awkward position of either having to knuckle under and do something they don’t really want to do in order not to hurt your feelings, or having to say no and run the risk of hurting your feelings. It ends up making the decision to serve in a particular ministry all about you, the pushy person, rather than about whether or not God wants that person in that ministry at this time. And not only should we not be basing our decisions about whether or not to serve on pleasing man rather than on pleasing God, it is unloving and unkind to back a brother or sister into a corner, forcing them into a no-win situation. If you love your brothers and sisters in Christ, you’ll want them to serve because they’re convinced God wants them to serve, not because you want them to serve.

Woman to woman:
As far as your personal relationship with this woman goes, it sounds like you have tried to reach out to her and help her, which is commendable. We all have weaknesses, and it sounds like this lady’s weakness might be lack of self-awareness and social skills. Sometimes, no matter how gently and lovingly we approach someone about a personal issue, she will get defensive or avoidant. Maybe she just needs some time to settle down. People rarely stay at fever pitch about something forever.

Is it OK for you to keep your distance from her? Well, I don’t think you need to proactively pursue spending time with her, but I also don’t think you should avoid any of your normal church activities that would bring you into contact with her. And, of course, you should be kind and loving to her when you see her in passing. If she continues to press you about the ministry whenever she sees you, there’s nothing wrong with politely changing the subject or excusing yourself. And if she wants to know what’s going on, just kindly and lovingly be honest with her. For example: “Jane, I’m so glad you’ve found a ministry you’re excited about and enjoy, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Maybe we could talk about other things when we get together?”

Sanctification:
As I said in the beginning of this article, personality conflicts in the church aren’t easy to deal with, but if we submit to God and His Word in the situation, they can be very sanctifying.

When I have to deal with a Christian I find difficult it helps me to remember a few things. First, this is a sister in Christ, made in the image of God. God knit her together in her mother’s womb, breathed the breath of life into her, and bled and died on a cross for her sins just like He did for me. We are all sinners, and we all have various personality issues that sometimes rub others the wrong way. Second, for every one person I run into that bugs me, there are probably a dozen who are bugged by me. I’m not any better than the person I’m dealing with just because I don’t bug people the same way she does. I also try to keep in mind that Jesus had to deal with a lot of difficult people during His earthly ministry. And, while I frequently fail, I do my best to follow His example of how to treat people.

The people we’re in membership with at our local church are our family. Every family has a crazy grandma or a know it all uncle or a cousin who constantly drops the ball. But we don’t just give up on family because they annoy us. Pray – daily and fervently – for those crazy, annoying, frustrating, challenging brothers and sisters at your church. Pray that God will help you love them the way they need to be loved. Consider setting aside some time to just sit and listen to them pour out their hearts. Many people act out simply because they feel invisible, lonely, and unheard. Be patient with them. Be kind. Do something unexpectedly generous and loving for them. Exercise forbearance. Find a way to help. Scripture after Scripture shows us it’s God’s will for us to love the unlovely, just like we want others to love us when we’re unlovely. This is one of the reasons why we’re in the church.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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