Have you heard this joke? A person bought an elephant for a friend’s room. The friend thanked him to which the person said, “Don’t mention it.” 

Think about it, you will get it. Hint: What is true of the elephant in the room? 

Does your church have the proverbial elephant in the room? That uncomfortable issue no one wants to mention, the problem no one is willing to talk about and, therefore, it never gets challenged. 

Sometimes it’s a leadership issue. Weak-kneed elders or those who are too strong. Perhaps it is roles and responsibilities that we expect to be covered that are not; sin in the camp that is swept under the rug; a power hungry church boss that ignores the direction of the leaders; a gossiping spirit; prayerlessness; an unwillingness to listen to God. 

Some churches can’t remember the last time there was a new birth. Sometimes it is the old adage, “this is just the way we have always done ministry and we are not about to change now even though it is not working any longer. Like Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof a church declares, ‘TRADITION!’, that codified social interaction that just seems to make life go on peacefully year after year based on a particular congregational worldview that the group is comfortable with … until … uncomfortably, it is not. 

For every church there will be a different situation. You know what it is for your church. And even though people know it is there, because we are afraid to cause a stir, or offend someone, we tip toe around the elephant in the room, and it never is dealt with.

So what should happen with an elephant in the room? An elephant will just take up all the space in the room unless it is led away. For a church to grow and stay healthy, it is imperative that spiritual leaders acknowledge the elephant in the room, not be afraid of it, prayerfully seek God about it and take steps to deal with it. Difficult? Yes. But to not deal with it means the church will slowly suffocate by the sheer size and weight of the elephant and never be free to grow into what God intends the church to be.

We have Biblical examples: 

  • Isaiah 54 refers to the Jewish nation becoming barren because they did not share the blessings of God with the nations so that others could come to faith and worship God. 
  • Acts 6 refers to the elephant of racism when the Hebrew church was ignoring the needs of the Hellenist believing widows.
  • 1 Corinthians 1 confronted the elephant of jealousy, division and quarreling.    
  • 1 Corinthians 5 judged the elephant of sexual immorality. 
  • Galatians 1 condemns the elephant of deserting the grace of Christ and turning back to the law. 
  • Paul confronted Peter to his face for the elephant of hypocrisy when he separated himself from the Gentiles whom God was calling to Himself.      

The list could go on, but I think you get the point. Biblical leaders were not afraid to call out sin or sinners in the church and thereby removing the elephant from the room. It is time to acknowledge our elephants, call them what they are, be transformed by what is Truth, and move on to freedom in our congregations.   

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Peter Johnson

Associate Superintendent at Eastern District Association
Peter has served as an associate pastor in NH and at Montvale Evangelical Free Church in Montvale, NJ. For nearly ten years he served as senior pastor of Northern Valley Evangelical Free Church in Cresskill, NJ before joining the Eastern District staff in 2007. Peter and Karen make their home in Hershey, PA, where Pete enjoys painting (art, not houses), gardening, and talking to his neighbors across the fence.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Calville Dunnon on November 11, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Great suject, great article. God bless you and ministry pastor.

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