Troublers in the Church (Bridges)

 It’s not a new occurrence when someone purposely tries to disrupt the unity and peace of a local Christian church. Paul had to deal with the Judaizers (cf. Gal; Phil. 3:2, etc.).  John had to warn the church of antichrists and false prophets (1 John). The list goes on.  Thankfully I’m not dealing with any sort of troublemaker right now, but I know from experience that they are like cancer or gangrene for a local church fellowship.

On this note, I very much appreciate how Thomas Murphy addressed troublemakers in his 1877 publication, Pastoral Theology.

The pastor need not be surprised if he finds troublers in his church.  The discovery of such persons among the professed people of God sometimes shocks ministers, especially inexperienced ones, and discourages them, and sometimes leads them unwisely to give up their charges.  But it should be understood as a lamentable fact that such persons are most likely to be found in every church, that the pastor will almost certainly encounter them, and that he ought to be prepared for the discovery, and not to be too much cast down by it.

It is well for the pastor to be forewarned on this subject, and to be undismayed if he encounters many dispositions which are calculated to disturb the peace of the church.  He will find that some are sadly inconsistent, bringing constant reproach upon the cause; some are complainers and fault-finders, acute at finding or inventing things to annoy; some take pleasure in criticizing and opposing everything that is done or said by the pastor; some are so utterly unreasonable that they will listen neither to argument nor entreaty; some are restless, always finding something to agitate and distract; some are quarrelsome, as if they found their greatest satisfaction in strife; and others again there are whose business it seems to be to pull down, never to extend a helping hand even to the cause which they profess to love.  The injustice and cruelty of such persons toward him – and that, too, when he is conscious of doing the very best in his power – will sometimes almost break the minister’s heart.

We would recommend as the sovereign remedy for such troublers in the church simply to let them alone.  Our advice would be, do not notice them; do not speak of them; do not oppose them; if possible, do not think of them – and they are disarmed for evil.  If they cannot excite any commotion, they soon become weary of their fruitless efforts to annoy….

If you’re a pastor or elder, take note (and read the rest of the section if you have access to it).  For those of you who aren’t pastors or elders, it’s also good for you to be aware of this so you can in a biblical way help keep the peace in your local church.  Finally, if you are one of these troublemakers, you certainly need to pray for forgiveness and ask the Lord to give you a peacemaking heart that lovingly seeks to build unity in Christ’s flock rather than tear it down.

Thomas Murphy, Pastoral Theology, p. 461-2.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015