How to handle over zealous Christians?

I’ve seen this repeatedly whether it be a street preacher or just someone in my family. But there are times to be outwardly strong in the Lord and times to be silent. Jesus displayed this when he was being questioned when he got arrested. There were times he spoke and times he said nothing.

How do we deal with our Christian brothers and sisters who don’t know how to chill if the situation truly calls for it? How do we have a conversation with a brother or sister in Christ who we may believe has a flawed doctrine, but they are extremely forceful about it?

4 Likes

Hi Luna, I think this is one of the more difficult issues we face in our Church. (I always capitalize church when I am referencing the Body of Christ, and lower case c when I am referring to our human institutions). On a human level, it is usually quite uncomfortable, but Scripture does give us direction. When Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth, he is specifically dealing with church conflict. This writing has little to do with the secular world. (see for example 1 Cor 6). While we should always approach someone with Love guided by the wisdom of the Spirit, especially when correcting them, it is still necessary to confront them. However, personally, I would try to get with the person privately - to share the insight. If they are confronted publicly - they will become defensive. I would also make sure I was very well versed on the questional doctrine.

While on staff at a church I once had to confront a lead pastor on some very questionable issues. It was very uncomfortable, and I had to pray quite a bit to: number one - have the courage, and two - make sure I had the wisdom necessary to have the discussion. For the pastor - It became a highly volatile situation, yet because of the prayer and preparation, I was able to always stay composed and answer every rebuttal with a scriptural foundation. After what seemed an eternity, the pastor finally had to agree and admit he was out of line.
I believe in the contemporary church we see a lot of grand standing and doctrinal flaws preached. It truly makes me concerned with the current state of affairs - and it makes me keep digging into John 17 more and more…

Blessings…Timothy

4 Likes

I really admire what you did. And it’s amazing it actually worked. (seems like that lead pastor was actually human) I’ve rarely seen that work in a religious hierarchy… So many times I’ve seen it get to the point where (like you said) it gets very uncomfortable; but there’s usually some sort of authoritative stunt that gets played at that point that shuts down the opposing voice in one way or another.

1 Like

@Luna Great question :slight_smile: Before getting involved, there are a couple of questions I would ask myself.

  • is this individual within my sphere of influence? If I do not have influence in their life, they are much more likely not to listen even if the advice is good.
  • do I have trust bucks in this person’s life? Do I have the kind of relationship with them within which they will want to listen?
  • is this the right time to give them advice? Approaching someone while they are preaching on the street and telling them preaching judgment on the street may not be helpful may not be wise. Of course, if you pass the same street preacher every week, maybe you could try to strike up an acquaintance.
  • is this person known to be teachable? Or am I just about to heap scorn on myself?
  • if I do not have a relationship with this individual, what value is there in engaging with them on this topic?
7 Likes

You’re putting your finger on something as you describe their tone as “extremely forceful”.
I personally believe some folks just don’t know how to say what they need to say without being obnoxious. It doesn’t excuse them from having to grow and learn in that area but it can be forgivable.
Some people never learn the “ropes” of social intelligence so they may not realize the damage they’re causing, or may have adopted a mindset to rationalize it.
One other thing that could be considered might be that your viewpoint about how something should be said or done might not be the finale authority either. Maybe the viewpoint of the street preacher (who turns a lot of people off) can be validated in certain ways, and certain street preachers could be honored to be virtuous arms of christian ministry even though their delivery is questionable. I’m not discounting what you’re saying about their forceful style seeming to be less than effective. (I get it). I’m just saying it may be worth keeping an open mind when considering what they’re up to and whether or not what they’re doing honors God. Our impressions aren’t always correct.

The bible points us to have a spirit of meekness (Strength and power held properly)
I think Timothy Paul (the previous commentor on your question) describes the spirit of meekness when he says “because of prayer and preparation,I was always able to stay composed and answer every question with a scriptural rebuttal” The following verses further show the spirit of meekness:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 1Pet3:15
shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? 1Cor4:21
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 2Tim2:25
Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: 2Cor10:1
Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger. Zep2:3
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. Jas3:13
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. Jas1:21
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Gal6:1
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Eph4:2

2 Likes

A couple random thoughts that I hope to pull together at the end.

I grew up with a father who was could and probably should have been classified as a Bible thumper. He could generally win any argument he was in and would do so with scripture. We came and went from many churches as they went a direction my dad did not like. There were many times I was embarrassed to be by my dad because he would be clubbing people with scripture. There were times, after I was older, where I could discern the misapplication of the scripture and was occasionally able to push back, but I had to choose wisely.

My mom was the opposite in the way she approached faith. She preferred to love people right out of their boots. She would share her faith but definitely NOT beat people over the head with it (well at least with words). Both of my parents have been dead for many years now. My dad definitely rubbed many people the wrong way, but not all. And there were some who would have definitely not known God but through him. My mom too, brought people to Jesus, but for other reasons.

We like to focus on Jesus. How did he approach people? How did he speak into their lives. And I want to become Christ-like, but I have to pause because we say this is how Jesus did things, but at the end of the day I feel as though I’m called to be an ambassador for the King. This means my mission and how I’m called to fulfill it might be differentthan answering WWJD. As a matter of fact if I look around the start of Jesus’s mission, my eyes fall upon the Baptist John. In today’s world I have trouble believing he would something other than what we view as a street preacher. No I am not trying to apply the negative connotations, but he didn’t have a “church” home, he stood out in the wilderness (street corner) proclaiming the good news.

Over zealous Christians tend to rub me the wrong way. The tactics mentioned above (by Sean O) on how to know whether to speak into their life are mentioned. Those are really good because ironically if you don’t follow that advice you are the one shouting (at the shouters) from the street corner. I do think the majority of us should be entering into other’s lives (make a friend, be a friend, lead the friend to Christ) as it does seem more effective and more in line with the model Christ presented, but… I am not sure it is all.

2 Likes

@Luna you mention street preachers in your initial post. I have mixed feelings on this topic because my own conversion experience involved a very direct and forceful street preacher. God had stirred my heart for years, but I was never willing to make a commitment. He used a very pushy street preacher to push me off the fence!
That said, I generally agree that being direct and forceful is maybe not the best strategy for most people, and concur with the comments from others. But God uses all sorts of ways to reach people.

2 Likes

@Andrew_Shaw I mentioned street preaching to give diversity to the situation. Something that isn’t personal to family members who are personal.

@timotto I love that term “social intelligence.” I’ve not heard those words put together before. But I immediately understood. Gonna remember that concept.