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Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
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By Nancy Canwell

           Morguefile
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3, NIV).

Bertha* was at it again. She was unhappy about something she saw at church and was not sparing words as she complained to anyone who would listen. Pastor Lee got word of this and moved her away from the foyer crowd.

“DID YOU SEE WHAT THAT YOUNG WOMAN UP FRONT WAS WEARING?” she shouted.

“Yes, I did,” Pastor Lee answered. “And I didn’t see anything immodest about it. Neither did anyone else you’ve complained too. I’m just glad this young woman is attending our church and wants to be involved by telling the children’s story.”

But there was no reasoning with Bertha. She spewed out judgments and criticism of the young woman—until the pastor stopped her.

“Bertha,” he said. “I’m asking you to stop. This young woman is new to our church. If you’re not careful, you will chase her away! And she won’t be the first person you’ve caused to leave our church because of the way you mistreated them.”

Bertha huffed and stormed off.

Do you have a “Bertha” in your church? Someone who is openly judgmental when an absent member begins attending again? Someone who doesn’t extend the welcome mat, but rather stands at the door and turns people away?

What can you do if you see this happening? In his book, “An Indescribable Welcome Home,” Paul Richardson offers a useful tool. He suggests that we “intervene when older brothers and sisters ‘sideswipe’ fellow members, visitors, and those returning to church. When they see or hear something that makes them cringe, they address it immediately. No shrugging their shoulders and saying, ‘Well, we’re all human,’ and dismiss words or behavior that offend, demean, or exclude. When leaders move toward the folks who have done the damage, they first seek to understand what prompted the person to respond in such an un-Christlike way. But then they don’t hold back in making it known that the behavior that they observed, or heard, is not something that happens at this church” (page 24).

In other words, leaders must have the backs of those who are being mistreated.

But maybe this tool doesn’t even have to be used. What if we stopped the problem before it started? That can be done by implementing this month’s prayer focus. And that is for the church as a whole to ask, What is it about me that might cause someone to want to leave the church? That takes personal honesty on the part of each member. And then God can give us the grace to change.

It’s like looking in the mirror of our souls—seeing if there’s anything ugly there—and asking God to make us beautiful in spirit.

Prayer Focus: Pray that we’ll be honest enough to ask ourselves the question: “What is it about me that might cause someone to want to leave the church?” Then pray that God will give us the courage to correct it.

Recommended Resource: “Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness” by Jerry Cook with Stanley C. Baldwin, http://amzn.to/14UtsP8.

*All names have been changed