Many in the church were kicking against the elders’ leadership. Among them was a deacon—I’ll call him Deacon Brown—who was causing much grief. He spread dissention and assaulted the character of each of the elders. He said the elders were like Pharisees, accusing each of them of lording over people and refusing to hear criticism. He consistently leveled these charges, among others, during the five years he was in the church. (How he won the privilege of serving as a deacon is a mystery.)
Deacon Brown rejected the elders’ admonitions to live at peace in the church. He exasperated the senior pastor, who spent many hours absorbing his criticisms. He supervised the count of the Sunday offering and stood stiff, solemn and scowling at the rear of the worship center as the ushers gathered the offering bags.
And he had cancer. He hated his life and wanted to die, but didn’t. He lived alone with his atheist, hateful father. He despised his singleness and was bitter about a relationship with a woman that, 10 years earlier, ended badly. He was intelligent and articulate, smarter and more insightful than most in the church. There was wheat hidden somewhere in all the chaff he was throwing around. At least that’s what the senior pastor told me.
Every elders meeting included an hour-long discussion of how to handle Deacon Brown. In my exasperation, I finally said the man was sucking the energy and joy and vision out of the elders. The elders had tried patient endurance, exhortation and admonition. It was time for a strong rebuke. Deacon Brown was taking the elders away from others of the congregation who genuinely needed and wanted shepherding.
The Lord sometimes hurts a man to get his attention. This man’s been hurt several times, but he’s not getting better. The Lord can repeatedly hurt a man until he gets sick of himself. That’s when he might turn to the Lord in broken repentance. The elders need to help him understand that principle.
The senior pastor mocked the thought. In an excellent eastern European Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, he said, I will crush you until you love me. It was really funny. It also was pathetically wrong.
The Scriptures teach that people love their sin so much that they often refuse to come to the light. John 3:19 is one example, coming on the heels of the beautiful offer of John 3:16. They need to turn from love of their sin to a desperate sickness of it. How do they get there?
Isaiah 26:9-10 describes one way: My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the Lord.
But, sadly, the elders changed nothing. Deacon Brown continued his way and soon left the church. He kicked at all of us on his way out.