Church Terrorism (Reading Romans 12:14-21)

I am writing this week with the utmost care (I hope), exercising grace as I trample through thorns. Conflict in the church is a sore subject. Yet, it must be dealt with for two reasons. One, conflict in the church exists. Two, the Bible gives us instruction on how to deal with it. My next post will ask the question of whether the church congregation has the right to end its relationship with certain people. Does the church ever have the right to ask anyone to leave?

Today I want to trudge towards that topic by dealing with the matter of impossible people. Paul says in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” The positive principle of this passage is that we should pursue reconciliation at all costs. The negative principle we can draw from this passage is that some people and some situations are simply impossible. Certain situations simply cross the line.

Church terrorism is an “across the line” sort of issue. What is church terrorism? In my experience as a pastor for almost 13 years I have been held at gunpoint by an array of statements that go sort of like this:

“Since I do not agree, I will withhold my tithe.”
“If the youth group isn’t doing thus and so, my kids will not be a part of it.”
“This may be what the church has voted to do, but my family will not participate.”

Yada, yada, yada. You get the point. I call such statements and threats “church terrorism.” The idea is that if someone withholds or withdraws the church must enter into negotiations or change their course in order to regain favor with the offended party. Early in my ministry I so feared these situations that I immediately entered into negotiations, thinking that avoiding such conflict was the Biblical thing to do. It was not long before I realized you can’t negotiate with terrorists. The negotiation may result in some immediate semblance of harmony, the tithe comes back, the family shows up, or the kids go to camp. Yet, in every situation I have found that the price of the next negotiation is more costly. Take it from me, if you negotiate once, it will not long until you are back at the table. Some people and situations are just impossible.

I have learned an odd lesson in all of this. Sometimes the best way to exercise grace and “live peaceably” is to walk away from church terrorists. If someone uses their kids as the youth group bargaining chip I often tell them how unfortunate this is, how I wish it were not so, and how much we will miss them. If someone threatens to withhold their tithe (mind you most people offer this information to me only through a series of third hand channels), my reply is that this matter is between them and the Lord. I am not sure who does and does not tithe in the first place. Had the person not sent word they were going to stop, I would have never known they ever started. On this note, it is amazing to me how private a matter tithing is to people until they stop doing it. For years they have been careful to keep the matter private. Once offended they are careful to make the matter public.

The point in all of this is that you can’t negotiate with threats. As a pastor I spend time dealing with people who may be unhappy about certain aspects of ministry. My experience has always been that when people are willing to talk without threats the outcome is usually edifying. Most people want peace. Over the last several years I have noticed that there is a lot I can learn from God’s people who disagree with me. I have also learned that in most situations of disagreement my mind is prone to jump to conclusions. I would call it my gut fear. It is my inner pessimist. My inner pessimist is without grace. Yet, in most situations things are not as bad as I would believe them to be. Because of the measure of faith given to God’s people most matters of conflict can be resolved in a manner that is edifying to the Body of Christ (v. 3). Church terrorism is the exception, not the rule. So Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (12:18).”


I know that I have told you this before and I may have even said it when I was speaking to the church, but my grandmother always told us to "never let someone run you off from your church." Even if the pastor or staff was causing a problem you needed to stay and deal with it. It is not always easy and sometimes somebody needs to leave, but each person should put their thoughts and opinions under the spotlight of the Bible and what Jesus commanded us to do. If everyone used that test, then issues would get resolved MUCH faster and for the better.

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