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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: What turns people off about church?
BWSmith
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What turns people off about church? A lack of "love" in both word and deed. Too many churches are "Corinthian" churches.

Show me a church in an uncomfortable facility, with a boring worship style, that doesn't hit on your particular intellectual topic. If that church shows unconditional Christlike love to members and visitors alike, it will be bursting at the seams every Sunday. (You'd be amazed what inconveniences people will put up with in an environment of Christian love.)

Show me a church in a brand new facility that follows all the latest worship trends, and that makes a perpetual effort to be "relevant". If the people show no love, the pews will be empty every Sunday. People will always find some reason to say they don't like that church, when the reality is they don't feel the love.

I daresay that churches that see the need to manipulate their external appearances for the sake of attracting new members are churches that have given up on love as a strategy...

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Martin60
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Twilight, muh dear, I was nee replying to you at 10:31 to your 10:28, I was just chucking in one of my annoying little whizz-bangs.

BeeDubbyer, I agree in theory, but unfortunately there are many full churches empty of love and many empty ones filled with love.

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Love wins

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Belle Ringer
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quote:
Originally posted by BWSmith:
What turns people off about church? A lack of "love" in both word and deed...

Show me a church in an uncomfortable facility, with a boring worship style, that doesn't hit on your particular intellectual topic. If that church shows unconditional Christlike love to members and visitors alike, it will be bursting at the seams every Sunday...

Show me a church in a brand new facility that follows all the latest worship trends.., If the people show no love, the pews will be empty every Sunday.

I think you are on to something here. When a church is focused on programs, people are just tools to use to meet program needs so the church comes across as cold, and scolds people who aren't doing what the program wants, "you should not have dropped choir, it lacks people and needs you" and "we need a nursery worker, go do that" (regardless of the scolded person's needs or interests). When the focus is on people, church comes across as warm.

Also, many a church feels cold to some and warm to others. A church that delights in a new couple with kids can be cold to someone they think is gay. A church of mostly people who went to high school together can be warm for them and cold to people who grew up elsewhere.

"Invite a friend to church" doesn't work when the one inviting means "come to the building I go to, I'll be busy with other people or projects (you'll be on your own)" instead of "come be with me in church."

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Huia
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What turns me off in Church is not being able to hear all the service. Part of the reason I found my current church so welcoming was that they have a well functioning "loop" system. This means the feed from the mic goes straight into my hearing aids, so that I can hear no matter where I am in the church.

Hearing well for the seriously deaf is often not just a matter of sitting closer to the front or turning up the mic.

Huia

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Charity gives food from the table, Justice gives a place at the table.

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Lietuvos Sv. Kazimieras
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I am turned off by worship and behaviour in the sanctuary that is sloppy and irreverant. I am turned off by preaching that is outright stupid (making assertions about non-theological matters when the preacher is stepping out of his/her area of expertise and talking about stuff they know little about), preaching that is over-intellectual at the expense of conveying any gospel message; preaching that habitually fails to convey any recognition of social gospel. I am turned off by music that is technically bad in its execution (i.e. not by music that is contrary to my personal taste but music that is simply badly done). I am turned off by bombastic, OTT liturgies. I am turned off by liturgies that have a 5 minute eucharistic canon - the heart and soul of the Mass - lost amidst excessive attention to a lot of other shit.

I could go on...

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BWSmith
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In addition to my point about churches' biggest failing being a lack of Christlike love, I would add two things:

- failure to give any sense of divine authority
- failure to provide divine purpose

The first one is where it appears that someone or something other than Jesus is in charge of the church, so "God" language comes across to them not as language of a loving creator, but a defense of poor clergy and parishioners.

The second relates to the disagreement between left and right about what the church is supposed to be doing with its time and money (reduced to either saving souls for heaven or saving bodies from poverty, with not enough resources to do either very well). As a result, many wonder if their time and money isn't better used somewhere other than the church...

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Jon in the Nati
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quote:
The first one is where it appears that someone or something other than Jesus is in charge of the church, so "God" language comes across to them not as language of a loving creator, but a defense of poor clergy and parishioners.
I must admit that I have never been in such a church that gave me that sort of feeling. Could you say more about this? What exactly was it that gave you the feeling that God and/or Jesus Christ was not "in charge" of the church? What, specifically, would give you the feeling that God and/or Jesus was "in charge" of the church?

[ 31. December 2012, 20:35: Message edited by: Jon in the Nati ]

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Homer: Aww, this isn't about Jesus, is it?
Lovejoy: All things are about Jesus, Homer. Except this.

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BWSmith
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon in the Nati:
quote:
The first one is where it appears that someone or something other than Jesus is in charge of the church, so "God" language comes across to them not as language of a loving creator, but a defense of poor clergy and parishioners.
I must admit that I have never been in such a church that gave me that sort of feeling. Could you say more about this? What exactly was it that gave you the feeling that God and/or Jesus Christ was not "in charge" of the church? What, specifically, would give you the feeling that God and/or Jesus was "in charge" of the church?
Well, this is exactly the kind of problem we should expect with the church, since it was the problem with the Jerusalem Temple at the time of Jesus' entry, and the problem with the Corinthian church when Paul wrote his letter.

Examples of when it feels like God is not in charge of the church tend to center around the issues of church power: money and camaraderie:

- When the pastor preaches on 'tithing' and cites the authoritative "Biblical basis" of 10% (gross) based on Leviticus, yet ignores the "authority" all the other laws of the Torah (since those are "nailed to the cross")...

- When the choir director prioritizes professionalism over "making a joyful noise", e.g. regularly picking some of the least friendly people in the church to sing in the special music (because they are the "most professional")...

- When the church is willing to selectively overlook certain sins (like divorce or infidelity) if the person in question is a "good old boy" who has been a member for years...

- When church committees run up debts contributing to missions with which you disagree, or inflating salaries of ministerial positions that you don't think are necessary...

This is not to say that the church is doing "God's will" when it does "everything I agree with". But if God is in charge, the church can take an action that I disagree with, and when I reflect on it later, I can see that it was God at work, and I was the one in the wrong.

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womanspeak
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One thing that should be easy to fix with appropriate self-reflection and coaching is--

Sermons which have long rambling introductions which reflect on the specific life and experience of the preacher alone.

When this experience is not shared or understood by the congregation, it speaks to the lack of empathy and understanding of the community by the preacher.

A recent example was a ten minute excursion back to the preacher's university college days. Looking around the small congregation - (another story about what turns people off about church there) - I counted only myself and the preacher's spouse as university graduates, neither of whom could afford halls of residience. The congregation didn't even have children who had gone to uni!

I wonder if a suggestion box might work?

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from the bush

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Jon in the Nati
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quote:
When the pastor preaches on 'tithing' and cites the authoritative "Biblical basis" of 10% (gross) based on Leviticus, yet ignores the "authority" all the other laws of the Torah (since those are "nailed to the cross")...
Here we have a clear instance of some pretty poor theology. Nothing new, of course.

quote:
When the choir director prioritizes professionalism over "making a joyful noise", e.g. regularly picking some of the least friendly people
This really sounds like a matter of personal preference to me.

quote:
When church committees run up debts contributing to missions with which you disagree [...]
I can see that disagreeing with the mission of the church might turn one off to it. Sounds to me like it might be time to find a different church.

quote:
This is not to say that the church is doing "God's will" when it does "everything I agree with".
Actually, respectfully, that sounds like it is pretty much what you're saying, at least with regard to some of these things. You would prefer that the church let more (or other) people into the choir. You would prefer that the church not send money to missions you disagree with. Then you cite these matters of personal preference or opinion as evidence that God/Jesus is not "in charge" of the church. That seems a strange leap to me.

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Belle Ringer
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quote:
Originally posted by womanspeak:
I wonder if a suggestion box might work?

LOL, I was in a church that put up a suggestion box. I guess a few people dropped off some suggestions, because two months later we were scolded for making suggestions. "If something needs doing, do it, don't try to add to someone else's work load."

In a way, I can see the complaint, but when a suggestion is to move Sunday School hour to a different time slot or location, no one person in the congregation can just do it on their own; or to repaint the halls, if you just do it you'll be criticized for doing it without going through the proper channels and for picking the wrong colors.

Maybe he intended suggestions to be about hymn selections?

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Martin60
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Divorce is a sin?

That's one of the un join ed up turn offs about church.

It's funny how selective we are about the OC transcended in the NT and how we detranscend the NT, fail to meet its mark and institutionalise that harmatia, that sin.

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Love wins

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Amazing Grace

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quote:
Originally posted by Belle Ringer:
quote:
Originally posted by womanspeak:
I wonder if a suggestion box might work?

LOL, I was in a church that put up a suggestion box. I guess a few people dropped off some suggestions, because two months later we were scolded for making suggestions. "If something needs doing, do it, don't try to add to someone else's work load."

In a way, I can see the complaint, but when a suggestion is to move Sunday School hour to a different time slot or location, no one person in the congregation can just do it on their own; or to repaint the halls, if you just do it you'll be criticized for doing it without going through the proper channels and for picking the wrong colors.

Maybe he intended suggestions to be about hymn selections?

You could always ask.

Even without knowing more of the context, that wasn't handled well. If the suggestion is obviously "out to lunch" (and with an anonymous box, you will get some of that ... we get plenty of it with non-anonymous communications) then whoever is reading the box can have a good laugh.

If it's not crackpot and warrants further discussion, the box opener can take it to the board or other appropriate parties and they can discuss feasibility and resources and then float it out to the congregation or back to the board as needed (or Just Do It).

People being what they are, a lot of useful suggestions will be phrased in cranky, non-positive, "scolding" ways, and the 'processors' need to be mature about this. They are allowed to roll their eyes out of public view.

I guess the ur-suggestion for them would be "stop taking everything so damn personally". I mean, didn't this person ever learn standard "ways to deflect politely"?

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Mark Betts

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quote:
Originally posted by BWSmith:
What turns people off about church? A lack of "love" in both word and deed. Too many churches are "Corinthian" churches.

Show me a church in an uncomfortable facility, with a boring worship style, that doesn't hit on your particular intellectual topic. If that church shows unconditional Christlike love to members and visitors alike, it will be bursting at the seams every Sunday. (You'd be amazed what inconveniences people will put up with in an environment of Christian love.)

Show me a church in a brand new facility that follows all the latest worship trends, and that makes a perpetual effort to be "relevant". If the people show no love, the pews will be empty every Sunday. People will always find some reason to say they don't like that church, when the reality is they don't feel the love.

I daresay that churches that see the need to manipulate their external appearances for the sake of attracting new members are churches that have given up on love as a strategy...

I was going to reply to this, thinking it was the OP - but I can see it isn't. Nevertheless, I think you are absolutely right. I have experienced this on both sides - where there is an abundance of love (charity) and where there isn't.

I think it should primarily be the incumbent's duty to teach this, both by word (1 Corinth 13) and example. It should then flow down to effect the PCC and the ordinary members.

I must admit I was first tempted to answer the question:
"What turns people off about church?"
with
"cringeworthy attempts to be relevant"

But no, I think love/charity is where we need to be looking.

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"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

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BWSmith
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon in the Nati:
You would prefer that the church not send money to missions you disagree with. Then you cite these matters of personal preference or opinion as evidence that God/Jesus is not "in charge" of the church. That seems a strange leap to me.

The church is always going to send money to missions one disagrees with. However, my real beef is the first part of that quote - that the church "builds up debt" while contributing to missions that I disagree with.

I don't think any organization with non-binding, voluntary membership has any business building up (six-figures of) debt, because 3/4 of the church could walk away and leave a huge burden on the 1/4 that stays.

(Naturally, debt is unavoidable because of the need for property renovations and purchases and so on, but there has to be clear plans to pay it down, even if missions suffer because of it.)

Anyhow, I just think it builds up ill will when a church with a lot of debt does not practice frugality for the sake of gaining the trust of its members.

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Chorister

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Snowball fights in the aisles (or are they throwing pork pies?)

The cartoon in the Church Times this week is very relevant - 'Yes we're Liberals - but there are limits'. Even people who are not used to church (one might argue especially people who are not used to church) do still expect it to look reasonably like a church service when they do decide to visit.

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Retired, sitting back and watching others for a change.

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BWSmith
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin PC not & Ship's Biohazard:
Divorce is a sin?

(This is a dead horse.) Divorce isn't technically a sin, but "God hates it", so draw your own conclusions.

Statistics suggest that every congregation has 50% divorced members, so it's expected that many deacons and teachers will be divorced.

However, I view divorce along the same lines as abortion: only 7% of abortion cases get the publicity (rape, incest, life of mother) and the other 93% are consequences of life choices. I think there is a similarly small percentage of divorcees who are good, responsible people who were victims of spousal cheating/abuse, but in the vast majority of cases, both spouses have relationship and/or personality issues, and the fact of the divorce counts as a "red flag" when considering them for a leadership position.

My former Sunday School teacher was a poster child for this situation. Before I came to the church, he had apparently gone through a very ugly divorce (with children) and remarried. It used to make me uncomfortable when he and his second wife would share anecdotes about the lack of respect and initiative their teenage son (from his first wife) showed the stepmom, with the subtext that parenting is hard and sometimes you need to get tough with kids because it's God's will that they honor their mother and father. However, given the unprofessional way that these two conducted themselves, it was nearly impossible for me to not sympathize with the son.

It made me wonder why people like this are put in a position of "wisdom" over me when they are unable to see what is obvious to everyone else - that their life choices are the cause of their relationship problems, even if they want to blame everyone else.

(But God forbid that you suggest that divorced people not teach Sunday School - that makes you a racist, sexist, homophobic (insert liberal cliche) bigot in our society where everyone's a "victim" of circumstance and not responsible for their character, or lack thereof...)

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Doublethink.
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If you are confident your post is a dead horse, don't post it in purgatory. Flagging that you are posting something inappropriate, does not magically make the post appropriate.

Doublethink
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All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome. George Orwell

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Quinquireme
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A friend of mine (atheist) is a photographer who frequently does shoots in cathedrals for coffee table books. He usually finds the vergers and other officials to be mean-spirited and unco-operative. I must say they have often looked that way to me too when I have visited such places.
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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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BWSmith;

Every person in the world (apart from you apparently, which allows you to sit in judgement over everyone else) has "relationship and/or personality issues". Every person in the world (above proviso again) makes unfortunate "life choices" (it comes partly of not being omniscient, partly of being fallible, and partly of not achieving moral perfection). Human nature, including everyone's (except apparently yours), seeks to divert blame.

So, unless you plan to do everything in the church yourself, you're going to have to allow some of these awful, failed, human scum you are forced to share a church with to do some things as well.

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Anselmina
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quote:
Originally posted by Quinquireme:
A friend of mine (atheist) is a photographer who frequently does shoots in cathedrals for coffee table books. He usually finds the vergers and other officials to be mean-spirited and unco-operative. I must say they have often looked that way to me too when I have visited such places.

Possibly many vergers have had 'problems' with photographers and visitors (not your friend, I'm sure), and unfortunately some of them must get quite cynical and soured. Or at least defensive and suspicious. It's a shame because I suppose vergers are part of the ministry of welcome in the Church. But maybe some people find it hard to strike the balance of being defenders of a holy place and welcomers, too.

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Bishops Finger
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What Karl said.

[Overused]

Ian J.

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Our words are giants when they do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service. (Wilkie Collins)

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Gwai
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Let's cool it with the personal attacks, people!

Gwai
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--------------------
A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea.
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.


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BWSmith
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quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
Every person in the world (apart from you apparently, which allows you to sit in judgement over everyone else) has "relationship and/or personality issues". Every person in the world (above proviso again) makes unfortunate "life choices" (it comes partly of not being omniscient, partly of being fallible, and partly of not achieving moral perfection). Human nature, including everyone's (except apparently yours), seeks to divert blame.

So, unless you plan to do everything in the church yourself, you're going to have to allow some of these awful, failed, human scum you are forced to share a church with to do some things as well.

This is actually an excellent response, given the topic of "What turns people off about church". Karl has just (unknowingly) contributed much more astutely than I ever could to the discussion.

As Karl insinuates, it is clear to him that the church divides neatly into "the judgmental" and "the judged". Everyone on the planet (by Enlightenment definition) is equally depraved, but the "judgmental" are the ones who run their mouths (as I have), trying to pretend that they are "perfect", and the job of "the judged" is to take them back down a notch...

(More generally, when (post-Enlightenment) liberalism is your ultimate authority, everything becomes extremely simple: all human conflict, including talk of morality, is a power play, and those without power are always justified in attacking those with power.)

Now suppose one reads Karl's response in the context of the Corinthian church's reaction to Paul's first letter to them? I'm sure many felt the same way. "Who the Hades is this ex-Pharisee, lecturing us on how to run our church? Didn't he used to hold the coats of those who stoned Christians to death? Fine moral example he is!"

On many occasions Paul agreed with them in principle on the failings of his moral past, but he still was called to preach the gospel, and found churches, and even to "judge" the failings of the people in those churches.

Karl, my response to you is the same - I don't deny that in the grand scheme of things I have just as much a sloppy "moral record" as anyone else in the church. But if my Christianity means anything at all, then I can't be hamstrung by my own humanity. When it comes to the appropriateness of divorcees lecturing others on successful marriage and parenthood, I have to call things like I see them (just as you apparently know me well enough to draw lots of conclusions about my motivations).

And coming full-circle to the discussion of turning people off from church: I think that too many churches quietly push the same anti-judgmental vibe that Karl's post demonstrates, (where drawing attention to a sin is worse than the sin itself and should be implicitly resisted). Further, those on the fence about church observe this and have trouble figuring out what the "point" of church is if the pursuit of personal holiness, of all things, is frowned upon...

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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I mentioned neither "judgemental" nor "the judged", so that's your (incorrect) assertion.

Rather, I don't divide the church up at all. It's a mess of people, each with their own faults, struggles, blind spots, and whatnots.

I draw no conclusions about your motivations; again, that's your supposition. If you, with your faults, sins, blind spots and whatnot, can still have a valid place and role in the church, what I don't understand is why you see it appropriate for you to rule on who else, with their faults, sins, blind spots and whatnot, cannot.

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by BWSmith:
Before I came to the church, [my former Sunday School teacher] had apparently gone through a very ugly divorce (with children) and remarried. It used to make me uncomfortable when he and his second wife would share anecdotes about the lack of respect and initiative their teenage son (from his first wife) showed the stepmom, with the subtext that parenting is hard and sometimes you need to get tough with kids because it's God's will that they honor their mother and father. However, given the unprofessional way that these two conducted themselves, it was nearly impossible for me to not sympathize with the son.

It made me wonder why people like this are put in a position of "wisdom" over me when they are unable to see what is obvious to everyone else - that their life choices are the cause of their relationship problems, even if they want to blame everyone else.


I can understand your discomfort, because it seems to me that the couple concerned lacked humility and sensitivity. These failings are surely likely to turn quite a few people off church, even if they're quite tolerant about divorce and remarriage!

However, it comes back to churches being places where, in general, everyone likes to avoid conflict. This means that church members who lack self-awareness are unlikely to be helped to overcome this 'problem'.

Posts: 6668 | From: UK | Registered: Feb 2012  |  IP: Logged



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