Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who Brought the Offense?

"They were offended."

That was the answer we heard most often over the years when we asked why someone left our church. It was the perfect catch-all response because, not only did it make the person who left seem spiritually weak, it freed the leadership of any accountability for their departure. Even if a person knew that it would be in their own best interest to leave, they were keenly aware of the fact that they would be talked about in the same fashion as their unfortunate predecessors. There were those of us who had dozens of legitimate reasons to leave. But we stayed because we believed we were doing a good work for God, and we were under the impression that we were "in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing." But we were wrong.

According to William Arthur Wood, "Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation." Most people do not react well to domination, control, or intimidation. We saw that in abundance over the years. One definition of control is "to adjust to a requirement." Many of those requirements were an unnecessary show of this control that stifled people's creativity, talents, and abilities. Ridicule and intimidation were practiced on a regular basis, usually in a public forum where the person would be the most humiliated. If you were ever hurt or offended, you didn't dare say anything. Then you would be a poor sport. And if you retaliated, you were being rebellious. People's feelings were rarely considered. They just needed to be "tough." Much teaching was done on not becoming offended, but never on not being offensive. It was the ultimate excuse for bad manners and insensitivity.

So, yes, multitudes left because they were offended. But who offended them?

Luke 17:1-2 (KJV):

1. Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

- V