A friend recently told me about this John Piper message preached on September 3, 2008 in which he relates an account of a time of conflict that occurred earlier in his ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church (listen especially to minutes 2:00 to 5:00).
Piper explains how in 1993 (after he had been at the church for 13 years) he overheard an inappropriate phone message between a male and female staff member. He says,
For six weeks it was hellish in our church. I would not back down….
They denied it, and the church almost blew to pieces, because I was being accused of finding-fault with a staff member with whom I had worked for ten years. A very serious fault. I mean there was no way to restore this. Even if I’m wrong, there’s no way of restoring this. This was horrible.
He then shares how the staff member eventually confessed his sin but concludes:
The upshot was that 230 people left our church. Those were very dark days, days in which I could not preach, because the people were so angry with me. This is never clean. You’re never vindicated in a situation like this. This is always ugly no matter if you’re right or not. It doesn’t really matter. And so 230 people left our church. We didn’t grow for three years. It was flat. It was sorrowful, and surviving was all we could do. Just keep our noses above the water.
Even John Piper had people leave his church in discontent. This is a reminder that the ministry is often, if not always, filled with both peculiar joys and hardships (see 2 Tim 4:2).
Yes, those were hard and sobering days. I was and am still a member at Bethlehem. But God was there to give more grace. He met our needs.
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