When “Church” Gets Too Big: In Measured Doses It’s Fertilizer (In Large Quantities It’s More Like A Pile of Organic Waste)


In the late 90’s I was working on a project with a group of Christian women. Some personal issues arose in the group (not involving me at all) and I became disillusioned with the way I saw them handle it within the group. I was talking to an older, wiser, more experienced friend about the situation and told her I had decided I would not do any more such projects with this group, as the difficulty with watching such conduct that seemed petty and hypocritical was more than I cared to be involved in. She said to me, “So let me get this straight. Because of your disappointment with a couple of human beings you are going to remove yourself from availability to God to do the things he wants to do in YOUR life?” Well, when she put it that way it was I who seemed petty and hypocritical. It was good training for working in the church. Keep the focus on Christ….not other people. Do what the Lord calls you to do. Even so when we see someone doing things that cause conflict and hurt for others in the church we have a responsibility to address it, especially if it is a process/system issue that appears to be resulting in harm to more than just oneself. The motive may not be malicious, but if the outcome is destructive, it needs to be addressed.
Twenty or so years later I was engaged in a process with another very different group of Christians and found myself facing similar disappointment in the level of arrogance, disrespect, lack of candor, disregarded efforts at communication, presumptive thinking, back-stabbing, and hypocrisy exhibited by individuals with whom I was engaged. After months, then years, of silence from God on permission to walk away from the process, institution, and people God led me to some great understanding and personal growth and only then did He affirm my view that this was not a holy process and I was free to walk away, having gotten all the good out of it He intended and seeing with unvarnished clarity that God had other far more productive options for me to achieve his purpose.  He also showed me in 2015 that there would eventually come an end of that group as it existed. 
In the last year I received this unsolicited affirmation of my choice to fight for what I viewed as right, even though in the eyes of many I lost the battle. It was from someone who knew my ministry and my heart:
“On the matter of your (church) adversities, I want you to know that has grieved me and pulled back the curtain on the dark side of the institution. It has become evident to me that (its) emphasis on (the role) of women has sometimes become a focus on “the right kind” of women who adhere to the “proper” theological persuasion. The institution has sometimes felt threatened by evangelical women, particularly those whom they perceive as assertive.
I have great hopes that the (changes ahead) will open doors for women like you who have experienced discrimination in the current institution. My experience of being in the clear theological minority, as well, is an uncomfortable feeling. It doesn’t feel like the church where I met Jesus and fell in love with the scriptures. We are far from united. There are two mutually exclusive and incompatible institutions entangled in what is ironically called “united”. The time for us to come out from among them is long overdue.”  *

It was a surprisingly honest affirmation of what the Lord had told me while I was sitting in a meeting with that group that felt for all the world like an ambush in 2014:”This is not about you. It is about a bigger battle in the heavenlies. Wait and watch.”

The larger and more self-important and authoritarian the group, the greater the risk of abuse to others.  As I write this I am reminded of Gideon’s 300 warriors.  Judges 6-8 are summarized at Bible Portal:

“Gideon and his men were camped at the spring of Harod, where the 135,000-strong army of the Midianites were just north of them. Gideon’s men of 32,000 was no match against them. However, God said, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel might boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’

The Lord told Gideon to let anyone who trembled with fear to go home, and 22,000 men did exactly that. But God said this so that Israel may not become arrogant and proud, as if they gained victory on their own.

Now 10,000 remained, but God said, “there are still too many men.” He commanded Gideon to take the men to the water, and guided him to choose according to how the men drank water. 300 men who lapped water like dogs were set aside, and the remainder were told to go home. The Lord told Gideon that he will use these 300 men to win over the Midianites. That means one warrior for every 450 Midianites! This message cannot be comprehended with human logic.

Despite the irrational setup, the number of people was not so important as to having or not having God on their side. Gideon and 300 warriors gained victory because God gave wisdom and protection every step of the way. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) He was on their side! 

Why, out of all standards, did the Lord choose His fighters according to how they drank water? We must find the deeper meaning in this. God chose the people who did not lose their posture and attitude as the army of God in the midst of urgency. Drinking water is a daily activity that we don’t even think twice about, but God is looking closely everyday – at our lives, attitude and the little things we do. Are we committed even to the small things? Is our heart pure even in matters that do not seem to matter?

Not by human power and wisdom but by God’s spirit and power, the Midianites were given into the hands of Gideon and 300 warriors. God doesn’t need a giant army to do His work and fight His battles. Rather, He is searching for that one godly man trained in Word and prayer, courageous in faith, and spiritually awake.” 

*Parentheses within the quote were used to paraphrase in order to protect  the identity of the individual who wrote this to me.