Posts Tagged ‘1 Corinthians 3:16-17; destroying a church or congregation; attacking a pastor; pastoral termination; dismissing a pastor’

It is possible to read the New Testament dozens of times and yet miss the clear meaning of certain verses.

For years, I missed these two:

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

These words of Paul from 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 sound like they come from the Old Testament: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”

What is God’s temple in this context?

God’s temple is a local church.  (The terms “you yourselves” and “you” in verse 16 are both plural.)

What’s Paul saying?

That anyone … believer or unbeliever … who destroys a local church will be destroyed by God Himself.  (Sounds like a guarantee, doesn’t it?)


God’s Spirit lives among His people.  God’s church is sacred.

Therefore, if an individual or a group destroys a local church, God promises to destroy them.

How many times can you recall hearing anyone preach this text?

I’m not aware that I’ve ever heard any preacher or teacher highlight or explain these verses … but they are there all the same.

What’s the most common way of destroying a congregation?

That’s easy: attack the pastor until he’s forced to resign.  Gary Pinion writes in his book Crushed: The Perilous Side of Ministry:

“Spiritual leaders are prime targets in these last days.  The Bible tells us that if you strike a shepherd, the sheep will scatter.  Entire congregations can be wiped out with a single blow to one shepherd.  For this reason they are the number one public enemy on Satan’s hit list…. Corresponding with this gigantic loss of shepherds, new studies are also providing growing evidence of a great loss of churches.  A study in Exit Interviews by Hendricks shows the appalling results of the loss of ministers: there are now 53,000 people leaving churches weekly who are not coming back.  George Barna’s research sadly declares that we are losing one percent of our churches in America every year, as godly warriors depart from the battle arena.  As shepherds leave, sheep leave.”

Pinion then quotes a woman whose congregational experienced major conflict:

“The conflict resulted in the pastor being forced to leave.  Because of this decision, the people who supported the pastor left the church.  The church attendance was reduced to half, relationships were severed, weekly income was drastically cut, and various ministries in the church were forced to disband.  The church became known in the community as a place of power struggles, fighting and discontent.  I could go on and on.”

The latest statistic I’ve run across is that 4,000 churches close down every year in the United States.

Let’s acknowledge that a small percentage of pastors may contribute to the destruction of a church through domination, intimidation, manipulation, or retribution.  Some pastors have behaved so badly that they have almost singlehandedly wiped out a church they’ve pastored.

But the great majority of the time, churches are destroyed by lay powerbrokers who want to limit their pastor’s authority so they can expand their own influence and that of their friends.

If I disagreed with something my pastor was doing or saying, I would make an appointment and speak to him lovingly and directly.

If he didn’t agree with me, I would either stay and support him or leave the church … without taking anybody with me.  (Division in a church begins when people pass on their personal complaints to others.)

Based on the entire tenor of the New Testament … and specifically 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 … I would never want to do anything to destroy a church that Jesus is building in a particular community.

But if I found out that I had contributed to a church’s destruction, I would repent immediately … or else be wondering constantly when God was going to take me out.

These verses don’t specify how God chooses to destroy a church destroyer.  His wrath could be exhibited in this life (primarily for a believer) or in the next life (possibly for an unbeliever).

But however God decides to deal with someone, He has an infinite number of punishments at His disposal.

If you’re a lay leader in a church … maybe a board member, or a deacon, or a ministry team leader … I beg you: be very, very careful how you treat and speak of your pastor.

Pastors are not infallible.  They make mistakes.  And when they mess up, they need to be graciously and truthfully confronted.

But you should always aim for their restoration and redemption, never their punishment and destruction.

Remember Paul’s phrase: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.”

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

That’s exactly how God intended for it to sound.








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