The church is certainly not a place for perfect people. Contrary to the beliefs of many, the church is actually a place where self-proclaimed sinners gather to intentionally work at being better than they currently are.
As such, it is the case that when working in ministry, one can definitely expect challenges. People can act badly.
Actually, people can act very badly.
Oftentimes, in the midst of such conduct it is a minister's role to endure some of this bad behavior in the hope of redirecting a person in a positive direction. This is often far more challenging than it might initially seem.
In my personal experience, the way ministers handle such adversity often determines how fruitful their ministry will be in the future. If the minister can manage to keep a positive outlook throughout the ordeal, normally those around him will rebound and move in a positive direction. If, on the other-hand, the circumstances of the situation consume the minister to the point where he allows himself to lose such positive perspective, then usually a hailstorm of adversity will follow. Add disgruntled individuals, forming groups of people, and circumstances often exponentially increase in difficulty and can quickly spiral out of control.
Most people can relate to this in their own lives. How many times have you been around someone who complains and bemoans the negative aspects of something, even if such aspects don't exist, until the person actually manages to bring their complaints -- real or imagined -- to fruition? It is a fact that there are people in this world who are consistently antagonistic, who consistently exhibit intimidating or aggressive behavior, and who communicate in ways that are accusatory, blaming, belittling and defensive. These folks tend to engage life through a conflict methodology usually learned honestly through observing the actions of others.
In some ways the conflict method may be intuitive to our nature as human beings. Oftentimes our first thought upon being hurt is to fight back, to return insult for insult, injury for injury. Of course, along with the constant pursuit of this line of thinking, comes the old phrase: "An eye for an eye and everyone ends up blind."
Christians, on the other hand, are called by Christ to see a different way.
Jesus calls us to disarm bad behavior through love, nurturing, patience, service, forgiveness and joy.
Such disarming behavior obviously doesn't seem to be a unique philosophical point in this stage of human history but, I would contend, that what is still somewhat novel is to actually see such philosophy/theology put into practice. Keeping such a fact consistently in the forefront of our minds can be both beneficial and challenging at the same time.
Thus the question I would ask you to consider is: Does engaging in negativity or a conflict methodology actually benefit a person at all in the long-term? I believe the answer is unequivocally "no." As such might not a better approach be to begin to ask ourselves with consistency and intention: "Am I trying to be a positive influence in the world and am I succeeding in that goal?"
I bring this to your attention because in my particular religious tradition, everyone is considered a minister not simply the pastors of the church. Were we all to actively adhere to such a positive call in our lives, I think undoubtedly our world would instantaneously become a much better place.
The Rev. Christopher Benek is the associate pastor of Family Ministries at Providence Presbyterian Church. Read his blog at www.christopherbenek.com.