-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Eight years ago, I tried to wrap my head around church abuse. Not only had I been witness to it on multiple occasions, people were beginning to come to me with stories. They were stories different from my own, but contained the same vulgar grains. All but one attempted to cover over or cover up the indiscretion. All were attempting to gain or keep power. I remember pulling out Matthew 18:15-20, and seeing it for the first time for the victim.
15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16 But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17 But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. 18 I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19 Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”
Matthew 18:15-20 CEB
I needed the church to engage the guilty in this very way. Talk to them privately. If that didn't work, have two or three talk with them. If that didn't work, make it a whole church matter. I felt like church abuse, in all it's forms involved augmenting, hiding, and destroying. God's light needed to get in there and exact some good change.
Well, let's just say any scripture can be used in multiple ways. When it comes to broken churches, they break scripture.
In a broken church, abusers will use this scripture to attack the abused.
When a tool is turned into a weapon
There are a few ways broken churches break this scripture:
If your brother or sister sins against you...
If you're a minister, and planning on preaching this scripture on Sunday, realize the power it wields.
When weaponized, it can destroy your church from the foundation up. It won't be an obvious destruction. It will crack your foundation and seep into your walls like black mold. The only people who will see what you've done are the ones you've hurt.
If used as Christ intended, to bring us to wholeness. It's meant for church disputes, not abuse.