Word of Grace

Ray E. Horton's Weblog, encouraging fellow Christians

Speaking the Truth in Love – It’s About Relationship ~ by Ray Horton

Controlling people in the church who are concerned with everyone else’s spirituality have a phony spirituality. Often, it is the leadership, trying to do God’s work uninvited and not directed by God to force change in their people.

Phony Spirituality Interferes With Real Relationships

A good leader will focus on his or her own prayer life and spiritual growth in order to allow Jesus, the glory within, to overflow to those who follow. The good leader will get out of the way and trust the Holy Spirit to work among the brethren. These are the leaders people will follow and who will have truly fruitful ministries.

The Lord is patient. He will show you the best time and way to speak a word in season. God is all about relationship. If so, shouldn’t the church be all about relationship? God, in His very nature, is Trinity. And the Body of Christ is called to be family. It is so important for spiritual leaders to recognize that and respect that. And yes, some do lord it over their families, but that’s not God’s way.

“But, isn’t the church all about teaching,” you may ask. Well, teaching is important, but if relationships aren’t established, then teaching, no matter how good or anointed, will be less effective, because it will bounce off the ears of the heart like a rubber ball off a wall.

Teaching from someone with whom you have a relationship, who you know cares about you personally, for your own sake, is more often than not absorbed as by osmosis right into the heart, along with the want-to, and the right motivation.

Teaching from someone who doesn’t or is perceived to not care is, in fact, often resented and resisted. The controlling person calls that rebellion, but it really is just natural human resistance to being lorded over.

”It shall not be so among you”

As the apostle says in 1 Peter 5:3, “Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.” Jesus taught the same thing. In Matthew 20:25-26, Jesus said, “…You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.”

On the one hand, we want to teach the uncompromising Word of God. There is so much false doctrine and bad teaching out there. But it’s the spirit as well as the letter of the Word that we don’t want to compromise. Especially in personal ministry, if it is to be received and spiritually discerned, the way the Word needs to be presented is spiritually, that is, Spirit-led, not force fed.

“It’s wrong for them to be defensive and take offense,” you say! “Doesn’t the Bible say we need to be able to speak the truth in love?”

Well, some think, “I love you, so I can just tell you like it is.” But remember, people are at all different levels of maturity, and the Jesus way is to be big enough not to give offense in the first place. You consider yourself to be the more mature person? Then it is up to you to take the high road and set the example. Ask the Lord, with what words and in what tone will I best be able to reach them.

Don’t judge the people – you were there once. Rather, love them the way they need to be loved, show respect, listen, then maybe they’ll hear your truth, if gently spoken.

After all, what is your motive, to effectively touch hearts for the Lord, or get a notch on your belt for straightening someone out? You are helping God, you say! Get off your high horse! God doesn’t need your help! Rather, let Him be the One Who encourages and exhorts through you, as you are sensitive to the Spirit and do things His way, Spirit led.

So when you see a fault in your brother or sister, ask the Lord if it is up to you to deal with it. Does He want to use you? If not, pray for the Lord to reach them otherwise. If so, He’ll call you to be sensitive. Where is this person spiritually and/or emotionally? Be honest and look within yourself. How would you have reacted if you were where they are to the approach you are considering.

Look at your motives – is it about them … or you?

Someone would say, “I’ll do my duty, and show them where they are wrong, how they are sinning, how they have an unscriptural attitude or understanding.” Look at your motives! That’s all about you! Do you really care about them? If so, you won’t be quick to speak or act. You will stop and pray. People need to turn from sin and wrong thinking, but God will show you the best approach and give you the timing, if you are listening.

In fact, as you sit back with the Lord, resting from your own way, you will wonder to yourself, what situation, hurt, lack, betrayal, wrong teaching, or other circumstances brought them to this point. If you really care, you will seek the Lord, asking, “Am I the person to minister?” And be willing to hear “No” as well as “Yes.” If you sense a “No” in your spirit, you may be the wrong person, or it may be the wrong time. So pray for the Lord to be able to reach them. If the answer is “Yes,” be guided by Holy Spirit, for the same Spirit who is Truth is also the Spirit of love.

Isn’t this all fluff? Don’t we have to be honest and tell it like it is? No, we first need to be like Jesus, and bear fruit in our own lives, which is the overflow of His life and His way within us. Only Holy Spirit can convict and change hearts, and only He knows how, since only He knows the inner circumstances. God may want to use you, but it will be in His way.

Be available, but don’t push or force. After all, what is more important, your relationship or your right to be right? A true helper needs to get him or herself out of the way. You don’t want to drive them away. It’s the relationship that counts; you need to preserve it for the right time and way to reach out, meanwhile being an example of Jesus by your own life.

Not sure about this approach! Well, let me say, you do want to be effective, don’t you, and you want your input to work? Then you need to take the godly approach. Well, you say, I told them what they need to hear; now the ball is in their court, and I can wash my hands of the situation. You can do that, but that isn’t Jesus’ way, and you reveal your own immaturity and controlling motivation.

What is “speaking the truth in love?

Let’s back this up with some scripture. If we look a little deeper into the context in which Paul spoke to the Ephesians about “speaking the truth in love,” we will see that it is in the context of relationships within the Body of Christ.

“We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ” (Eph. 4:15). Especially in personal ministry, to speak the truth in love, we must speak the truth in a way the person can receive it in love; that’s how we are “growing in every way more and more like Christ.” Otherwise, it isn’t really love, and they will be unlikely to receive the truth.

We need to read this in the context of verses 11-32. It’s about, “equipping the saints,” “building up the Body of Christ,” “attaining unity of the faith,” gaining “knowledge of the son of God,” “becoming mature, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” It’s a context of relationships: “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (vs 16). “Don’t say anything that would hurt another person. Instead, speak only what is good SO THAT you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you” (vs. 29). Ephesians 4 applies to ministers, but really all of us, since we are all called to minister.

And lets look at what Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

In the context of our message, is it possible that the log in your eye may very well be your lack of sensitivity to the Spirit, or lack of love for your brother, or self-righteous motivation. That disqualifies you to speak into your brother’s life, and it will make it almost impossible for him to receive from you.

Now, I have been hard on shepherds of the flock who are too controlling. Let me balance this by saying that the shepherd, like the Good Shepherd, will leave the 99 for the one who is going astray. I know that is the heart of many a pastor. But you can’t force them back – the shepherd is often portrayed as carrying the lost lamb on his shoulders. It’s all about love and relationship. The most caring leaders can also sometimes be the most controlling. They care for their sheep so much they are too involved in their lives.

Brothers and sisters, while leading the flock, we need to rely more on praying for them. We can’t push them. And remember, you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, but you are not the Holy Spirit. We need to trust the Spirit of God more in His ability to touch the lives of the people and bring change where needed.

Here are some other related scriptures:

“A soft or gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger;” or, “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue stirs angry feelings.” Prov. 15:1

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Rom 15:1-2

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions or criticizing them for having beliefs that are different from yours.” Rom 14:1 “So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” Vs. 13.

[As an aside, let me say, I don’t pretend to know more than people who have been set aside for the full-time ministry. But, I have been living and or serving in or close to ministry in various streams of the church for nearly 40 years, and the Lord has shown me His heart in some areas, which I submit for the discernment of my fellow believers.

Thankfully, the Lord has had me in a good church in recent years. But a conversation with a friend recently reminded me of the importance of this issue. And, while it happens everywhere, I have seen from Facebook conversations that pastors and other leaders who are controlling seems of late to be a particular problem in some third world countries.

Good shepherding and leading is so important for the church and close to the heart of God. Over the years, I have seen many gifted ministers grow, and I have seen some fall. The leader of a congregation must have a true pastor’s heart, or be surrounded by those who do and be submitted to their wisdom concerning relationships with people.

I have observed such leaders mature. Some have started out as great teachers, evangelists, even apostles, and, with time, mellowed into Jesus-like pastors bringing their people deeper into the ways of the Lord. Several who haven’t, I’ve seen fall by the wayside. You see, it’s not all about natural gifts and talents. Yes, a strong personality may be able to build a great edifice, and yet not be able to grow a church after God’s heart. I believe the key is the reality of a leader’s prayer life and yieldedness to the Spirit of God.

The Lord is able to do anything with a submitted heart. May our spiritual leaders rely on Him, stay close to Him, and grow strong in Him, and love the flock, in Jesus name. And brothers and sisters, it is vital to pray for those in authority in the church. – Written and first published on Facebook on September 28, 2012 – Ray]

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September 17, 2013 - Posted by | Articles by Ray Horton

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