One Sunday about 20 years ago ... I said something impromptu while receiving new members into the church that has stuck with me ever since. People were standing in a row across the front before me, and as I spoke, the Holy Spirit seemed to prompt me to add, "And now, I charge you, as pastor of this church, that if you ever hear another member speak an unkind word of criticism or slander against anyone - myself, another pastor, an usher, a choir member, or anyone else - you have the authority to stop that person in midsentence and say, 'Excuse me - who hurt you? Who ignored you? Who slighted you? Was it Pastor Cymbala? Let's go to his office right now. He will get on his knees and apologize to you, and then we'll pray together, so God can restore peace to this body. But we will not let you talk critically about people who are not present to defend themselves.'
"New members, please understand that I am entirely serious about this. I want you to help resolve this kind of thing immediately. And meanwhile, know this: If you are ever the one doing the loose talking, we will confront you."
To this very day, every time we receive new members, I say much the same thing. It is always a solemn moment. That is because I know what most easily destroys churches. It is not crack cocaine. It is not government oppression. It is not even lack of funds. Rather, it is gossip and slander that grieves the Holy Spirit.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
I love these words from Jim Cymbala: