How To Kill A Church
2 Timothy 2:14-19
“Warn them before God against quarreling about words…” vs. 14
Two PillowsYiddish folklore offers tells this story about gossip-makers. There was once such a man had told many malicious untruths about the local rabbi He realized the errors of his ways and went to him to apologize and to try to make amends. He begged the rabbi to forgive him and said, ”Rabbi, tell me, how I can make amends.” The rabbi sighed, “Take two feather pillows, go to the public square in the middle of town. There cut the pillows open, wave them in the air, then come back.” The man thought it was a bit strange but agreed and he quickly went home, got the two feather pillows and a knife, went to the square, cut the pillows open, and waved them in the air. Feathers went everywhere. Afterwards he goes back to the rabbi and says, “I did just what you said, Rabbi.” “Good.” The rabbi smiled. “Now, so you realize how much harm is done by your gossiping and lies, go back to the square and collect all the feathers.” “But Rabbi,” said the man, “that is impossible. Feathers went flying all over and there is no ways to get them all back.” “Exactly!” said the Rabbi.
Read Passage – 2 Timothy 2:14-19
14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place,and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
Concerned About God’s Approval
In the passage previous to this, Paul is writing Timothy making it really clear that Jesus is the only way of salvation. Salvation makes you start thinking about eternity. When I think of eternity, I think about standing before God. Paul states in verse 15:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” vs. 15
There is the reality that one day we will all stand before God and have to give an account for our life. There really is only one answer that will appease God. It’s not how many good things you have done, how much you accumulated here on earth, if you met some quota of attending church so many times in your lifetime, or even if you gave a certain amount of money to the church. The only real answer is that you believed that Jesus was God’s Son and that you accepted Him as your Lord and Savior. If you are able to claim that, you here these words (my paraphrase) “Great job, you’ve understood that, come on it to heaven.” I’ve thought many times about standing before God and I want to hear that.
Growing up in a very strict vein of Christianity I knew that was the right answer but still flet like I had to do all things good things so that God wouldn’t be mad with me. It’s a fear based reaction. It’s kind of the old tactic that you tell people they are dying and going to hell unless they accept Jesus, which at one time worked but really doesn’t work too well anymore. As I have gotten older, I see it much differently. I realize how much God loves me. I don’t know about you but I know for me, when someone loves me, I want to love them back and I want to show that in my action and give them back that same kind of love they have given me.
Needing Constant Attention
I would love to tell you that once you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior that you sin less and less and eventually you put sin behind you and lie is a breeze. But…that isn’t true. Our lives are in need of constant attention so Paul says in the first part of verse 14:
“Keep reminding God’s people of these things.” as. 14a
Life is really more like a rollercoaster than a drive on an even road. We can be on top of things one minute and struggling with something else the next. Sin is that way too. It seems you are doing well when all the sudden you find yourself doing something that you don’t want or hate doing. Staying on track is tough and constant work.
Ex. Most of us have at one time or another struggled with some type of weight issue. You do well for a while, stick to your diet, exercise, and then somehow, somewhere, you got off plan and it’s time to reevaluate and get back to where you want to be.
Especially when it comes to sin, I think many times we get complacent and have a sense of false security. We think we are doing well. We haven’t done anything really bad like, robbed a store, set any big fires in the hills, murdered someone, etc. We get a sense of false security because our sins don’t seem that big.
Though that is true, we haven’t committed any “big” sins, so to speak, there are things in our life that are hurting us and many those around us too. One of those more “quiet” sins can be that of a critical spirit and in our passage today, Paul points out 3 ways this can show up in our life. I would even put this to you, we have to be extremely careful with these because they can not only hurt us, they can kill our church. That’s why today’s sermon is “How to Kill A Church.” These things can actually do just that.
The first thing that Paul points out to Timothy is that many times we can be “nitpickers.” We can be critical about every little thing and nitpick people, ideas, and the things around us to death. Notice what Paul says in verse 14b:
“Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” vs. 14b
What does nitpicking really accomplish? At times it is important to be correct and accurate. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact, there are times when it is needed. But nitpicking goes further than just being accurate. Paul points our here that nitpicking can be words that cause fights, they are of no real value, and it tears down. Addd to this the words of Solomon from Proverbs 16:28a:
“A perverse person stirs up conflict…” Proverbs 16:28a
As I said, not all the time but many times nitpicking is stirs up conflict. I tend to be a “smudger.” That’s right I am a “smudger.” If you are a stickler for minute details I will probably drive you bananas. You know, if the clock says 6:58 I will say it’s 7. I can get really perturbed when someone corrects me. It stirs up conflict. It’s important to know when nitpicking is good and when it is just plain irratiating. Let me give you two examples.
Ex. Ale Trabek on Jeopardy. I love to watch the show but when someone says a answer wrong, especially if it’s a foreign language, it can be irritating and very pretentious when he corrects the contestants.
Ex. Example number two. Sometimes people can be very nitpicky when it comes to the church. They can critique just about everything. Recently when someone visited and I went to their home to talk with them, they had a list of everything that was wrong; from the donuts being too sugary, to the bathrooms, to the children’s dept. etc. It was really irritating. On the other hand, contrast that with a woman that came by recently to view the church for her wedding. She loved the building, complimented the wood, the sanctuary, etc. and she was just thrilled with everything. I can’t tell you how much more of a joy it was to talk to the soon-to-be bride.
Many people use the line “I am just critiquing…” as their excuse. We really need to make sure our nitpicking isn’t tearing down but that we use it only when it is necessary and when it is used for building up.
A second church killer are those who gossip. Verse 16:
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” vs. 16
What is gossip? Did you know if you look it up in the dictionary that one of the definitions is a “chatty talker?” Isn’t that interesting how that lines up with verse 16? Now chatting isn’t in and of itself bad. But when it is used to tear down, to demean, to put down, and if it is “godless”, it really isn’t something that should be in our life. Gossip separates people, it is usually done to elevate the person speaking it and put down another, and it as verse 16 says, ity leads to more ungodliness. But it gets worse. Let’s go back and finish Proverbs 16:28:
“…and a gossip separates close friends.” Prov. 16:28
Now let me be a little more personable here. I want you to know that I love being with you. I love being a family in Christ. I love spending time with you, doing ministry and activities together, and I enjoy your company. But notice what these two verses are saying, gossip kills the church. It separates, it divides, and it leads to more ungodliness. Isn’t that exactly what we don’t want the church to be like? I want our church to be inviting and to be a place where people are affirmed and welcomed and comfortable. And the thing about gossip, it’s a silent killer.
Ex. Paul uses an example here that is really disturbing. Gossip is like gangrene. Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a considerable mass of body tissue dies (necrosis). This may occur after an injury or infection, or in people suffering from any chronic health problem affecting blood circulation. So let me show you how this works in the church. Gossip tears down and hurts others. It causes part of the church to die and it can be life-threatening to the church.
Think how serious these words of Paul are. They reflect the need for the church to be a place of building up and encouragement. If a church is hurting people, causing injury, and that begins to spread, it is like gangrene, a silent killer, and it is life-threatening.
The final church killer is false teachers. Paul says in verse 17 and 18:
“Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth.” vss. 17-18
Let me add to this some words from Peter in 2 Peter 2:1:
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” 2 Peter 2:1
Now this is really important to understand, the false teachers were in the church. We often think of the false teachers being out there. Not so. In both of these passages the authors point out the false teachers are in the church. We expect the church to be a safe place, a place of learning, worship, and growing closer to God. We expect to hear the truth. The church includes those we here on TV and radio. It includes you and it includes me. That’s why it’s so important to check everything to the Bible, to God’s Word. You should check the things I say to the Bible for accuracy. Don’t assume because someone is quoting the Bible that it is true and that they are quoting the Bible accurately. Check it out.
Ex. We are living in a day and an age when God’s standards are being challenged right and left. We are living in a time when we are being told to be “tolerant” of others. Being tolerant does not mean we accept people’s sins as “okay” but that we love people and desire them to know God the way we know God and that they draw close to him. A good example of this is the idea of being “poly-amorous.” That multiple partners are okay and that it’s just people loving other people and expressing that in a physical way. This is a big teaching in our world today and more and more people are accepting it. This is not God’s way. He is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman and that the marriage bed is to be pure. That is Biblical.
ThinkSo these are three church killers. For me, I am in the business of building the church not killing it. The question might be how to be a church builder. Well, it takes some thought. You have to think about it and commit to not being a nitpicker, a gossip or a false teacher. I found a tool that can be a helpful guideline when thinking about speaking. Use the word “think” and ask yourself these questions
T—Is it true
H—Is it helpful
I—Is it inspiring
N—Is it necessary
K—Is it kind
I don’t want to kill the church. I am call and challenge you to join me in being a builder of God’s church.