I have learned a powerful lesson from my refrigerator (yes, the appliance) over the years that has helped me navigate difficult situations: “If it smells weird, it is weird.” If the smell of a food in the refrigerator is off just a little bit, that probably means that it is going bad. And if it smells weird, it’s best not to risk getting sick by eating it. Instead, it’s best to play it safe and just throw it away.
I guess since I’m a pastor, I have a take things in a spiritual direction. And I have now incorporated that motto into my life to navigate gut feelings. “If is smells weird, it is weird.” In other words, if I get an intuitive, gut-reaction, bad feeling about something, then that probably means there is something significantly wrong going on behind the scenes in the situation.
Too often we can push down and ignore those feelings and thoughts of “There’s something not quite right here.” But what I have found is that if I listen to my gut-reactions, they usually do not steer me wrong. If something feels “off,” I have found that most of the time something is indeed off.
Let me give you an example this. By now, you may have heard that Ravi Zacharias was a serial sexual predator. I have been following this developing story for a little while but there was a point in the timeline when I knew he was a seriously sick person: when it came to light that he owned massage parlors. It’s not normal for pastors or any ministry leader to own a massage parlor. It’s just not. When I heard about that a couple months ago, I was like, “Wow…that’s weird.” And as soon as I thought that, the saying popped into my mind: “If it smells weird, it is weird.” And guess what? It was weird. But beyond weird. It was downright demonic and evil.
So what should we do if get a weird feeling about something (even about one of the pastors or ministry leaders at LBC)?
- Don’t ignore the feeling. Churches are high-trust organizations. I mean, we really try to live and love as family. And you usually give your family members the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, the plain reality is that all of us in the family of Christ are still sinners. Known of us is beyond falling into grievous sin. Moreover, the Bible tells us that wolves will be among us to some degree (Acts 20:29-30; 2 Peter 2:1-22). So those feelings you have may be perfectly valid.
- Speak up. It is not wrong to bring a feeling up. It’s not wrong to tell someone, “You know what, this seems odd to me.” What I have found is that even just by raising the issue, it often brings clarity to the issue. We ALL in the church must be vigilant to guard the body from ravenous wolves.
- Value righteousness over loyalty. No one is above the law of God. Not me, not Dan, not Dennis. No one. We must never excuse immorality or sinful behaviors because of the “brand” of the church or the personality of the leader. The purity of God’s people and the urgency of the mission of God must take precedence over protecting a personality. Whenever I go on vacation I come back and guess what I see? The church still functioning. Christ’s church doesn’t need any one individual to build it; Christ will build it (Matthew 16:18).