The Secret Ingredients to Healthy Church Relationships
There are many different giftings in the church and all the giftings are essential for the church to be healthy and grow. As they years have progressed and I have observed all the giftings, I have noticed that you can actually divide all the giftings into two camps. I label them the 'correction camp' people and 'compassion camp' people.
The Correction Camp
Correction camp people are truth people; meaning that they are deeply loyal to God’s word and their interpretation of it. In fact, to them, nothing supersedes truth. Because they are truth people, they are the ones who are typically pointing fingers and telling everyone else what they are doing wrong. These are usually the people who believe that pastors don’t preach enough, “hell, fire, and brimstone.” These are also the same people you might see holding picket signs at certain events. Correction camp people are typically very intense and passionate about causes and truth.
The correction camp usually appears to want to change others rather than change themselves. Because of this, these type of people can come off as arrogant, manipulating, and controlling. Their motivation tends to be outward focused rather than inward. Sometimes they appear to be judging others, or having an accusatory style of communication. People with this gift are usually prophetically motivated and they see everything as black and white, with little, to no room for gray.
When you spend too much time with a person who has this gift out of balance, you feel like your heart is being cut out with verbal knives. If you aren’t careful, you will come away from them feeling beat up and defeated. This is what happens with someone who has this gift and is still immature.
This gift matured and in balance however, is a phenomenal force for positive change. In fact, all the prophets in the Old Testament were correction camp people and their primary motivation was to lead people back to an undistracted devotion to God.
Marry Correction and Truth with Compassion and Love
My primary gifting happens to be prophecy. This means that my natural tendency is to be a 'correction camp' person. However, as I have grown and matured, I have learned a critical truth. The immaturity, misunderstanding, and misuse of the 'correction camp' gifting has possibly done more damage to others in the name of Jesus than any other gifting.
Because of the abuse of this gift that I have personally experienced from others, I have learned to temper my gift with extreme compassion, mercy, and love. The correction camp style of relating to others if not married to these qualities, will over time, cause the people all around them to lose heart and walk away from both the church and God. This is quite possibly why many people are so offended with churches. This imbalance needs to change.
The apostle Paul understood this truth well. This is why he said, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15 NASB) Paul understood that you can speak the truth without love and it feels more like a sword piercing someone rather than a sword protecting them. Paul meant we are to marry the sword of truth with love and compassion.
Handling the Sword of Truth Accurately
You see, if you are a Christian leader, you have a tremendous responsibility to handle God's Word–the sword of truth–accurately. You can either weild the sword carelessly and wound people on the battlefield, or you weild God's sword like a surgical scapel. Your maturity level defines which you consistently do.
When others feel like our motivation is to love them rather than simply correct them all the time, they will be much more likely to listen and change. When we realize that our job description as Christians is not to change people but rather to love them, all our relationships will thrive. As the old saying goes, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” If you are a correction camp person like myself, remember, truth is extremely important, but love is the most important of all. “But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The Compassion Camp
Compassion camp people are typically extremely positive. In fact, they are so positive, that they may be accused of being soft. Compassion camp people tend to shy away from talking too much about sin, hell, and the Devil. These type of people feel that others already know they are sinners, so it’s not their job to keep pointing it out. These people feel that there isn’t enough positivity in the world so they are constantly encouraging others to become all they can be.
The Apostle Paul
The apostle Paul was a compassion camp person, which is why churches thrived under his leadership. You see, Paul had caused tremendous pain in his past life, therefore Jesus was going to allow him to expereince pain as a believer in order to temper him with compassion, mercy, and love. Because God has such a huge calling for Paul, Jesus personally selected Him differently than all the other Apostles.
Sometimes it appears that compassion camp people compromise the truth for their own agenda. This gift out of balance appears that they are never concerned with the damage sin causes or with reproving people. Compassion people simply take a much different approach to pointing out sin. They make sure that you know that they love you first, then if they see something detrimental in you, they will usually take a subtle, kind, and humble approach at pointing it out. They understand that the it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin, not theirs.
When you spend time with a person with this gifting, you feel infused with hope and life. You come away with courage to be better and do better: en-couraged. They have mastered the skill of lifting others up. They make you feel like you can conquer the world. Encouragement people believe in you and your dreams and they do everything in their power to help you achieve your dreams. These type of people typically make the best leaders, as people naturally want to follow them. A modern example of a compassion camp person is Joel Osteen. He has mastered the art of encouragement which is why he has such a huge following.
Correction camp and encouragement camp people can sometimes be at odds with each other. Correction people feel that encouragement people are too soft on sin, while encouragement people feel that correction people are too hard on sinners. The key? Balance and maturity. Both gifts are vitally needed in the church, but both gifts out of balance can be destructive. Both groups of people need to learn to love and accept each other and help each other grow and mature.
Regardless of which camp you tend to lean towards, God desires maturity for all of us. In other words, you might naturally be a correction camp person but you’ve allowed God to temper your gift with deep compassion. When this happens your priority shifts from continually correcting others, to attempting to lift them up on a regular basis. A person who has reached this level of maturity understands what Job said in 6:14, “For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.” (NASB) Job, of all people knew what despair felt like. What did Job want from his friends when he was at his lowest? Correction? Truth? Job wished for kindness. What you offer others when they are at their lowest reveals a great deal about you. Be an encourager.
2 Timothy 4:2 gives us a most insightful look into this dichotomy and the balance of how to use these two gifts:
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort (encourage), with great patience and instruction.” (NASB)
Correction camp people need to learn to place their emphasis upon “exhort (encourage) with great patience and instruction,” as the beginning of this verse comes naturally to them.
Encouragement camp people need to learn to “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke” as the later part of the verse comes naturally to them.
Jesus was the embodiment of all the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit both in balance and fully matured. He was both correction camp and compassion camp. He was both a prophet and a mercy. He consistently spoke the truth in love. When people were out of line, such as the Pharissees, he let them have it verbally. He spoke truth. Yet, when sinners washed His feet with tears of repentance, He demonstrated extreme compassion. He loved. We as Christian leaders and His church would do well to heed Jesus' perfect example of both giftings in perfect balance.
Become an Encourager
If I had to pick one side to lean toward, it would definitely be the encouragement camp and here’s why. First, I am naturally wired to be a correction camp person and I have discovered how my gift out of balance has damaged relationships in the past. Second, I have spent considerable time with both of these types of people, and I have discovered that correction camp people (when out of balance) can cause tremendous discouragement and damage to people, but compassion people consistently infuse others with life.
5 Times More
As I researched this concept, I discovered that the NASB version of the Bible uses the word 'reprove' (which means: to bring correction) only 5 times in the New Testament, while it uses a derivative of the word encourage 24 times. The New Testament gives us a pattern that encouraging others should be 5 times more important than reproving them.
So, the next time you think about correcting someone ask yourself these two questions:
1. Do they know I love them or am I simply trying to correct them?
2. Have I encouraged them at least five times more than I have attempted to correct them?
When you encourage people far more than you attempt to correct them, they will blossom and become all they can be and thrive in a relationship with you, the church, and God.
(Hebrew 3:13a Paraphrase)
"Encourage one another everyday, as long as it is still called “Today.”