Posts Tagged ‘protecting the body of Christ’

Someone recently sent me a notice stating that a church volunteer who worked with youth had been arrested for having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor.

The person who sent me the notice knows both the church and the volunteer and said that a key staff member had been warned about this particular volunteer but chose to take no action.

Every church deals with potential intruders that violate healthy boundaries.  In his book Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, Peter Steinke lists the following common boundary violations in churches:

*accusing someone without reasonable cause or without initially talking to the accused

*disregarding guidelines, policies, and procedures

*humiliating people publicly or privately

*using verbal pressure to intimidate

*holding others hostage by threats or demands

*enlisting others to attend secret meetings

*labeling others with emotionally-packed words

*speaking on behalf of others, as if they know what the other is thinking

*telling different accounts or sharing different information, depending upon the hearers

*attaching fear to issues to control others

These behavioral “viruses” are constantly trying to invade congregations, which is why every church needs a strong immune system.

Steinke writes:

“Everyone’s body is equipped with proof of identity – that is, cells in our body have the same chemical combinations.  It’s as if they wear identical costumes.  Viruses also have a distinct chemical costume.  The immune system keeps cells that are bona fide residents separate from illegal aliens.  In immunology terminology, the immune system learns to distinguish ‘self’ from ‘nonself.’  Once an intruder is spotted, the immune system compares it against the rogues’ gallery of known pathogens.  If tipped off by resemblances, the immune system arrests and eliminates the intruder.  Sorting out self from nonself, the immune system says: ‘Red blood cells, good guys.  Skin cells, part of us.  Okay.  Virus … no good.  Toe.  Keep.'”

Steinke says that just as we find intruders in the human body, so we find intruders in churches:

“Lacking self-regulation, these individuals may act where they have no authority, say things that have no ground in truth, complain to everyone else except those who can do something about the situation, or place themselves in a position to control the nomination process.”

Steinke then compares the body’s immune system to immune systems in churches.  Usually the immune system is composed of a few key leaders who:

*serve as sentinels and provide the frontline of defense.

*sense when something is out of balance or troubling.

*see things firsthand and possess knowledge not widely known.

*realize that if something isn’t done, the church could pay a heavy price.

*constitute the “first responders” and sometimes must work hard for others to believe them.

After 36 years in church ministry, I’ve discovered that a congregation’s immune system may reside inside:

*the pastor.

This is especially true when a church is small.

During my first nine years as a pastor, when the church body was invaded by a violator, I was usually the one who initially addressed the issue and sought the help of other leaders.  While I didn’t like dealing with invaders, I knew what could happen if someone in authority failed to act as an immune system.

Most pastors cannot function as an immune system by themselves, but they may be the only ones who can point out the violations and the dangers of not acting.

*the official church board.

Most churches are as healthy as their boards.

In one church I pastored, the chairman and I made joint decisions on how to handle intrusions, and the church stayed healthy for years.

In another church I pastored, the chairman didn’t work with me.  One time, we had an inappropriate intrusion into our body, and I asked the chairman to write a letter and deal with the issue.  The letter he wrote was so incoherent that it wasn’t sent … and the body quickly became ill.

*a staff member.

I know a megachurch where a single staff member serves as the immune system for the entire staff.  He stays in touch with everyone … investigates any charges against staff members … and has earned the authority to make decisions regarding staff.  Not surprisingly, he’s been the pastor’s right-hand man for years.

*an individual of great wisdom and stature.

If someone had asked me during my last pastorate where the church’s immune system was located, I would have said, “The church board.”  And for much of my time there, that’s where the immune system was located.

But it took me a long time to realize that one individual in particular (a former board member I’ll call Robert) really activated the immune system.

One time, I was having trouble with a staff member who was resisting making changes we had both agreed upon.  The staff member was engaged in passive-aggressive behavior and modeling resistance.  It looked like an invasion of the body was imminent.

I called upon Robert, and we worked together to bring the body back to health.  But I couldn’t have done it alone … and he probably could have done it by himself!

But when Robert and his wife moved away, he took the church’s immune system with him, and the body was ripe for invasion.

It’s not any fun being a key part of a church’s immune system.  Dealing with invasions of the body is a behind the scenes, thankless task.

But every healthy church has a healthy immune system, usually composed of several individuals.

Who composes the immune system in your church?




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