So, you are having problems with the church Leadership, (or they are having problems with you!), maybe thinking of leaving, but hopefully first you are trying to reconcile and rebuild ??
Here are some practical pointers to help you through the process.
If your issue is that the Elders are doing something you believe to be fundamentally unbiblical or just plain evil, hoping that they will accept your point and turn things around is probably not a realistic expectation. Better just to walk away, or actually probably best don't walk but run.
However if it's something that you hope may be just a misunderstanding, a major or minor disagreement on style or conduct, what somebody said or didn't say etc. you will probably, (and you really should), want to attempt to resolve the problem and restore unity.
It should be easy as long as everyone is open and honest, in reality it can be very difficult, painful and frustrating, but do try to keep an open mind and stay positive.
Have your initial conversation and either your issue is:-
- Resolved - great well done!
- Dismissed as inconsequential - Okay, how important is this to you? Is this a battle you really want to fight? Only you can decide.
- The initial conversation becomes heated, harsh and nasty - Not quite what you had hoped! But, now you have the original (possibly quite minor) issue that is still unresolved, and also a whole load of new issues created by the way you have just been treated.
Probably now you will continue on to further meetings and discussions, so, be prepared:-
- Do not expect invitations to coffee or lunch to be relaxed social occasions. Almost always there will be another motive. Don't be shocked by this, just expect it and don't get waylaid into discussions on topics that you are uncomfortable with at that time.
- If the Elders feel that they have an issue with you and ask for a meeting, ask them to explain their agenda so that you are fully informed of what the discussion is going to be about and can ensure that you have adequate time to prepare any input.
- Do not get railroaded into an "urgent" meeting that they just can't talk, even in outline, about on the phone, This is a strategy that will not give you time to pray and prepare. Just say no.
- Ask who will be attending. You probably don't want to match them one for one, but to go into any potentially difficult meeting one against three (or more) is just not wise.
- Be aware that the eldership will certainly have discussed you, their perception of you and "your problem" amongst themselves at some length. They may also have discussed you with Elders in other relating churches. They will have agreed a strategy prior to the meeting.
Once you get into your meeting:-
- Make notes. Don't be surprised if the Elders find this irritating and don't be intimidated into not doing it.
- Receive what the Elders are saying as information at this stage, it may be true or may not be true, but this is your opportunity to get a very clear picture of which points you need to fight because they are totally incorrect, which points are not quite right but not worth arguing about, and which points they have got right.
- Do not get sidetracked into discussions on minor issues. This is a strategy to keep you away from discussing the major issues. This strategy is often employed to avoid Eldership having to admit they are wrong. Keep bringing the discussion back to the important issues.
- Try not to enter into "bible verse combat" with them. They do this stuff all day and they will just grind you down. Even worse, when you get back home and remember the verses you should have used you will just be so mad with yourself :-)
- If the meeting starts to become too stressful or upsetting, just bail out! Explain that you need to consider what has been discussed and arrange another time & date.
- Never assume that anything you discus with the eldership will be kept confidential. Expect that notes and computer data will be accessed by others within the church. Bear this in mind especially if there are legal implications in anything you may disclose.
- Do not expect that anything you confess to the Eldership will be kept confidential. Your right to confidentiality where independent churches are concerned is not protected by law and the Elders will do whatever they see fit with any "confession" information that you provide. The justification is "bringing everything into the light"
- If the Eldership wish to speak to your children, (even older children), only allow this after they have previously explained to you exactly what the issues are. Do not hesitate to cut short any meeting that strays into areas that you have not pre-authorised.
Possible outcomes from all this?
- Problem solved, everyone happy, everyone learnt something ? Excellent, you are part of a good church operating just as it should.
- No feeling of genuine resolution, or even that you have been heard ? In my experience there are usualy no winners at that point. Even if you got an apology and ended up kissing and hugging, you are now marked as divisive, independent, rebellious, possessed of a jezebel spirit or whatever. Sooner or later probably you will still leave feeling bruised and battered, but with a clear conscience that you did everything possible to try to resolve your differences. Well done for trying, now move on and don't look back.