Bible Answer

How to love others within the church?

Our church has a successful ministry reaching the local homeless population, bringing them to Christ and caring for their needs. Many are now regular attendees. Of these, one gentleman likes to whistle rather than sing during worship. While I myself don’t mind the whistling, several people have come to me complaining about it as a distraction during worship (I’m on the worship team). They did not want to confront the indiviual, but rather expected the church leadership to deal with it. I suggested if they didn't like it, to move to sit elsewhere. Eventually the pastor got involved and asked the whistler to please stop as some felt it disruptive, and so he did stop. What would have been the best way to handle this? 

The biblical definition of love (agape) is self-sacrificial love; placing the needs of another over personal desires. Agape love is the hallmark of a Christian witness. A follower of Jesus Christ should ask at all times what is best for my brother or sister in Christ, not what is best for me. 

Unfortunately, everyone involved in this situation failed this test of love, because everyone seems more concerned for his or her own personal interests than in the needs of others. 

For example, the new member of the congregation was wrong. He was only interested in doing what he pleased during worship. If he were truly showing love to others in the church, he should have been asking, “How do I best fit into this body?” If he had asked that question, he would have noticed that no one else in the congregation whistled (or appreciated whistling) during worship. Then he could have refrained from the behavior out of love for others, and in time he would have found new ways to worship without causing offense. 

Those who took offense to his whistling were also wrong. They were only interested in keeping their worship environment unchanged and undisturbed by the newcomer.  They should have been asking, “How can I encourage and edify this new believer without alienating him?” They should have overlooked his whistling for a time, while they built a personal relationship with him. In time, they could have found a loving way in private to raise their concerns about his whistling, in the way a friend counsels a friend without causing offense.  Instead, they took the easy and selfish way out by complaining to leadership (so they wouldn’t have to get their own hands dirty). 

The stance you yourself took was wrong too. You seemed to be thinking only about how to referee the problem without taking sides or causing offense. You should have been asking, “How does the Lord want to grow me through this situation?” You could have considered how the apostles treated the arguments over feeding widows in Acts 6 and realized you needed to find a healthy way to address the problem and the selfishness of both sides. Perhaps you missed an opportunity to grow as a leader. 

Finally, the pastor was wrong. He appears to have only been thinking about ending an argument quickly and moving on. He should have been asking, “How do I use this situation to grow my people in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?” In the case of the widows in Acts 6, the apostles appointed other leaders to address the issue in a fair and reasonable way. In doing so, they taught important lessons of fairness while raising up a new generation of leaders in the process (e.g., Philip, Stephen, etc.). Leadership exists to grow disciples of Christ, not merely to run an efficient organization. The pastor seemed more interested in the latter. 

Based on this example, I have concerns for this church body. If a minor situation like this can so easily expose such immaturity and selfishness, I can’t help but wonder how big the problem truly is?  The church leaders must begin to live and teach biblical principles of servant leadership and agape love, or else the church body cannot reflect it. If the church body isn't reflecting that love among its own members, how can we expect it to show that love to the world?