Church bullies mean no harm. Usually they are passionate about the Lord, sometimes even gifted teachers. The church bully is a well meaning believer with a zeal for God and an overwhelming desire to correct. He or she wants to teach and grow other believers and will do so with on-the-spot correction. The church bully loves the Lord but leaves others feeling as though their words have been rejected into the third row by Shaq with a Bible.
Zeal is good! Knowledge is good! A desire to teach is good! Being unashamed to testify is good! But we want to attract nonbelievers and build up the Body of Christ, not leave people feeling as though they have been smacked with a ruler by a nun in street clothes. How can you tell a church bully? How do you know if you are a church bully? The diagnostic test below may help:
You might be a church bully if….
- You respond to “good luck” by saying “Christians aren’t lucky, they’re blessed.”
- You respond to someone expressing their worries by saying “The Bible says it’s a sin to worry.”
- You respond to someone who says they left their Bible in the church by saying “the church is the people, not a building.”
- You promote boycotting businesses that wish you “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
- You respond to some mention of a TV program, movie or web video with a declaration that you don’t watch that kind or depraved material.
If you’re a church bully, thank you for caring. Continue speaking the truth that is Biblical, but don’t forget a critical part of this verse:
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
Speaking the truth IN LOVE. “In love” means in a way that benefits the other person. Before correcting any fellow believer, perhaps we should all first ask ourselves these questions:
Does this need to be said right now?
Correcting on the spot can embarrass people or indicate that you are not really paying attention to what they are saying. Waiting until a later time gives you the chance to reflect on what you will say or even bounce it off of a trusted advisor.
Will this correction build the person up or tear them down?
The purpose of correction is always to build up, not to display your knowledge at the risk of making someone feel hurt or angry.
Is this necessary to do at all?
Do we really need to correct figures of speech like “good luck”? If you can’t articulate a clear benefit to your comment, then choose to encourage rather than challenge.
Do I have the authority to correct this person?
The Bible outlines a hierarchy of responsibility and authority. Do you have an authentic role of authority with the person you want to correct? Are you the parent, church elder, established mentor, employer, etc? And remember, by God’s design, those in authority also carry some responsibility for the person’s welfare.
The bottom line is, use great discernment to avoid being a bully. You may want to repeat to yourself that God can and will complete the work He has started in other people, with or without your rebukes. In fact, if you’re not careful, you may actually hinder the Spirit’s work in another person’s life.
Now on the other hand, how do you handle a church bully who confronts you or people around you? Perhaps Ephesians 4:15 is a good place to start in that case, too? Even people who tend to church-bully are valued members of the Body of Christ, and the goal is still to build up and not tear down. Rather than respond to their on-the-spot correction with “I hate it when you do that!” you could sit down with them at another less-volatile time and give them a rotten egg sandwich.
You know what that kind of sandwich is, right? A rotten egg sandwich is a rotten egg (correction) surrounded by two delicious pieces of bread. In other words, you put something nice before the correction and something nice at the end. And even the rotten egg can be “soft boiled.” The correction could go something like this: “I really admire your passion to teach. However, when you correct the way I say things on the spot, it undermines my point. I want to work well as a team; that’s why I am bringing this to you.”
You get the idea. The main point is to handle matters with truth, love, and discernment. Always building up and never tearing down.
Comments? I’d love to hear about any challenging or successful interactions that you’ve had with church bullies!