An Aside on Toxic Community


Yesterday was one of those "too many things happening at once" kind of days, so I'm offering a short aside on community today. I'll continue the "Being the Body" series next week.

Sadly, yesterday I heard several stories highlighting what happens when our communities are not functioning the way the Lord intended. Mostly they consisted of the standard tale of someone in need approaching their church for help and being told, "Tough luck, chum." The other kind of tale is the also (sadly) typical one of churches falling apart from within because of highly defective "community." Someone pointed me to such a tale online and it happened to be about the damage suffered by a well-known blogger. I read the story and my heart was broken.

I post that tale because we need to understand that the petty thing we think is the world's most critical church issue, when held onto with such fury that it takes on a life of its own, has a way of biting people. Worst of all, those bitten people are sometimes the most innocent, children, as is the case in the story above. The fallout from those attacks lingers for years and becomes like a toxic waste dump in a person's life.  I get tired of hearing how those issues (almost always petty) take precedent over community.

When we're sitting in church on Sunday, let's be thankful for the people around us, even if we don't feel thankful. Then let's ask God how we can be the ones to help forge those people around us into a godly community with Christ as the center. Let's build up, not tear down.


7 thoughts on “An Aside on Toxic Community

  1. “No one makes me more uncomfortable than Christians, with their big smiles, and their bumper stickers…They give me the willies.” -Keith Green.

    Reading that article is one of those things that makes me want to bury my head and hide. Christians are God’s worst enemy, sometimes. We are so hung up on how we want things to be, that we forget, or ignore, how God wants things to be. How can so much bad come out of what God meant for good? And if we don’t think it matters, consider that Muslims are serious when they invoke the actions of “Christians” over 500 years ago to justify the relationship between Islam and the West today!

    Jesus said there would always be sin coming along to lead a person astray, but woe to the one through whom the sin came. I don’t be a carrier.

  2. I wonder if there’s a very good reason why we told so often to love one another. We are supposed to be known by our love for each other. My dad was a pastor for 7 years. He got kicked out of his first church and all sorts of evil things went on in order to get rid of him (for refusing to have joint services with Mormons and other matters).

    I think we often miss the spiritual attack side of these problems. My dad is still convinced that this church was on the verge of revival when everything fell apart (it was a church with a history of major problems). Then a few years later after having spent some years ministering in a wonderful church, we moved to a new church and stayed there for just under a year. This place was so bad that my mother spent most of her time in bed crying. A few ladies in the church made it a special point to torment my mom with their evil words of hate. Again, you can clearly see the plan of the enemy at work.

    My Dad left the ministry after this, a move I love and respect him for to this day. I watched many many men choose ‘the ministry’ out of pride and fear of others’ opinions, over their families and saw many families fall apart. What happened when my Dad ‘quit’ was worse than what happened in the churches. You can’t beging to imagine the rumors and slander that took place among the other pastors and wives. I still occasionally hear of them if I’m in those circles again. My husband even heard a story about my Dad in a Bible College class 8 years later, and the pastor sharing the twisted account was probably pretty shocked when my (at the time fiance) stood up and gave the true story!

    Unfortunately these things are very common in the church. I’m inclined to think much of it stems from lack of prayer together. I recently read somewhere that it’s nearly impossible to hate someone you’re passionately praying for. I would say the same goes for praying with people towards a common vision. I totally agree with the assessment in the last post: lack of or ‘toxic’ community is a severe lack of the presence of God. We need his Spirit if we’re going to really love each other.

    Just a note, it’s very important for us to forgive the people who have sinned against us or our families in the church. Bitterness nearly destroyed my Mom, but I learned a lot from her as I watched her work through it all and forgive. She has been back to these churches since and is filled with compassions for her former enemies. Those people are lost souls, and we need to love them. Also, we need to love the church Christ died for. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot if we take any other attitude than love toward the church!

    • Julie,

      I’ll be writing on this a bit more as the series continues, but I’ve posted in the past on the truth of “letting love lead,” that we love first and anything else—including true judgment—follows in the wake of love. (And don’t even get me going on the falsehood that being tactless and self-righteous in confronting a sinner is still “love.”)

      I think another we we should look at it is that any wrong judgment is rewarded with a punch in the face, while a correct one merits a handshake. Fewer people would be so quick to judge if they knew they’d get bopped in the nose for making an incorrect judgment.

  3. Well, Dire Dan, you’re back, better than ever and true to form.

    Everything is just so splendidly rotten everywhere that there’s no climbing out from the Great Laodicean Miasma that has a grip on everything, not now, not ever.

    Man, do I ever feel cheerful.

    (I wonder if I should just strip down to a loin cloth and find a cave somewhere in the Mojave Desert to hide out in and do the eremetic thing, like some one of the desert Fathers I’m currently reading about.)

    But really, I’m much more dire than you are. Unless there’s a Spiritual Revolution in this country, we can kiss it goodbye.

  4. Oengus,

    You’re right. I’m not as dire as you are. I’m in a good church that, while not perfect, has a strong community that does well in many of the things I’m talking about. Sure, even they can improve, and I’m not sure they catch the kind of vision I’m talking about for community, but I’m not sure who in the Evangelical church will. It’s too countercultural.

    At my heart, though, I’m an optimist. Perhaps disillusioned, but still trying to hold on to what I know the Lord wants. I’ve known solid Christians who’ve scoffed at me and called me a utopian. But I’m not really. I’m just trying to bring some of the 1st century Church to 21st century America.

    Is that a fool’s errand? Perhaps. But if I stop speaking I think I’ll explode. You’re right about a spiritual revolution, but a lot of things accompany that move. Plus, every spiritual revolution starts with a few people. If all those people speak out, things WILL change.

    If I have one fear it’s that we like the status quo too much. We’re satisfied with bologna sandwiches when filet mignon is on the menu. If I keep begging people to try the filet, then it’s what God is calling me to do right now. I can’t keep eating the bologna when I know better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *