Response to disruption in the church?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by ForHisGlory, Feb 16, 2009.

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  1. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Mental illness is that: illness. I'm frankly amazed at some of the ignorance that is being shown on this thread. My family is riddled with severe and not so severe bi-polar disorder. There is a strong genetic component to the disorder. When I was younger I refused to believe that it was a real disorder. Somehow it must be a contrived or imagined condition. I was wrong. Bi-polar may be overdiagnosed at times. But, genuine bipolar exists. And, no, the affected person can't just 'get a grip' once a mania or depressive mood begins. No, discipleship won't cure it or enable them to 'get a grip'. Neither will counseling alone. And, you can't just throw lithium at it either. It takes work with the body (medicine), mind (therapy), and relationships (family and church). There isn't a simple solution. And, no, it is not an issue of people being weak Christians or unbelievers. Most of the people in my family with bipolar are devout Christians. Bipolar disorder is most often found among the extremely intelligent and creative, by the way. The general population doesn't understand it; and the church, on the whole, surely doesn't.

    And, just so you know. Some of the cases in my family are so bad that they have become lifelong clinical case studies. You wouldn't want to know the details. It would ruin your day. It might just ruin your week.

    If this read like a rant, I make no apology. Some things are worth ranting about.

    What should this church do? It is hard to give specific advice, but they shouldn't just shun him. Tim's advice is good. The elders must help this family. Otherwise they are not fulfilling their call. If it had not been for godly elders in our church when I was growing up, most likely my family would not exist. Literally.

    -----Added 2/18/2009 at 07:14:10 EST-----

    If the man is truly bipolar, this would be the last thing you want to do; especially if he is not in a managed state.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2009
  2. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Would this fall under the jurisdiction of the deacons?
  3. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I am somewhat saddened that no one has suggested that this man be taken in prayer before the king of the universe -- surely God can distinguish between what is physical in need of healing and what is spiritual in need of grace.

    If the problems continue, as far as what the church can do, I like the idea of trying to get the guy involved with a specific responsibility. Its very possible that he craves attention and actually pushes attention away by his behavior creating a sad cycle.

    At some point, the church may have to make a decision about whether or not this individual is welcomed in the service. I read recently of a church (in Canada I think) that would not permit an autistic teen to be on church grounds after he attacked several church members. We have to ask outselves if a line has been crossed that puts too much attention on the individual when our aim is to worship God.
  4. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    I assumed that the man had been brought to the Lord in prayer. This is a church we are talking about, isn't it?

    I can tell you from quite a bit of first hand experience, if the man is not in a managed stable condition one of the worst things you could do is give him the type of responsibility that has been described. It would most likely aggravate the condition rather than help him; especially if he is in a manic condition.

    This congregation, if it want's to help, must work with the family to encourage (and if necessary use legal resources) to get the man Christian professional help as a starting place. Then they must commit to a long term relationship with this family to help them. The situation is worth the effort.
  5. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    I'm not insensitive to this. But what's diagnosed as bipolar today may be found to be a virus tomorrow. It might be a pituitary issue. It might be genetic (apparent link). But there is either a physical or spiritual issue causing it. Sure, certain drugs help calm the disorder/illness, whatever you want to call it. But the ones doing the treatment really don't know what they're doing, except that they see certain things work in certain situations with at least a reasonable amount of consistency.
    Here's part of the problem. "There are no lab tests or other procedures for diagnosing Bipolar Disorder." Also, "While the causes of Bipolar Disorder are still unknown, the symptoms are thought to be triggered by an imbalance of some key chemicals in the brain." Simply put, the tests are not objective. One might diagnose someone with bipolar disorder, another says they're schizophrenic and another says something else. You can't take blood and figure it out. You can't run a scan. All you can do is observe, take data and look for consistencies. Then you make guesses as to what causes it and try to treat it. Sometimes something works. Often it seems to, but is just making it worse. And, often, these diagnoses are simply ways of covering and drugging sin.
    Ritalin is a great example. Take a kid, shove him in a classroom, feed him sugar all day and let him play video games when he's home. Hey, how come this kid can't sit still? I've even heard of a kid being diagnosed with ADHD because his leg wiggled. They even have a name for that, some sort of syndrome. So, this kid's on ritalin for years, never learning how to really cope with life. Then, they take him off of it, he can't handle life and so ends it. The experts claim that he needed the medicine when actually they're the ones that stripped him of any ability to grow through the problem and made an addict out of him.
    And, yes, we have mental illnesses in our family as well. But they're more readily clear as a form of retardation, with clear physical issues.
  6. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Only in severe manic cases will this happen. And, it becomes apparent rather quickly once treatment begins that the case has been misdiagnosed.

    It amazes me that people will readily admit that every organ in the body can have medical problems, but when it comes to the most complex organ, the brain, that is off limits to it having medical problems.
  7. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor


    Why not just ask if he could take notes of the sermon, as opposed to watching for other disturbances? It would be more helpful if he could write notes on the sermon that he could hand in later so that the Elders could see what He is understanding..then he could be encouraged to use those notes to discuss the sermon with his children later.

    I agree, if he goes into a manic state, he could get violent against those who are seen as 'disruptive', and that could cause even more problems within the body.

    If he really is bi-polar and ADHD is he on medication? If not, why not?
  8. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor


    The key thing here being is that it is over diagnosed..When in fact many of those who are diagnosed with these things a good spanking would change their behavior..

    Years ago, when my oldest daughter was in elementary school, every single child in our neighborhood (with the exception of a those who were not Military dependents, and their parents did not work for the government in some way) were tested and diagnosed w/ ADD/ADHD or some type of learning disability. The school got more money from the Government that way..

    I babysat most of these kids every day after school, and they were no different than the one's who were not diagnosed..except their parents didn't discipline them, but when I disciplined them, they straightened up. They would come hang out at my house even when I wasn't babysitting, even knowing there were things they couldn't get away home their parents would just medicate them and send them to their rooms, instead of disciplining them..even if it was just a sibling spat.."oh your acting up, you need your medication."

    So yes, I agree, it is way over diagnosed..when in many cases it is just a matter of kids needing to be disciplined..
  9. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate


    Please let me clarify my thinking.

    My daughter was adopted before age 3 from a condition of severe neglect and malnutrition( Romania). During 3rd grade we had her fully tested and she has central auditory processing disorder, which happens with neglect or maybe severe infant ear infections. The brain does not wire properly. She acts normal when you talk to her, but concentration in the presence of sound is terrible.

    The testing hooks earphones to the ears and does a battery of tests. In one, they ask questions into one ear and the child answers. Mine scores 100%. They then add talking or street noise, etc into the other ear and a normal child separates them out and continues to answer. My daughter flunks.

    Then sentences are broken into syllables or parts and half played into each ear. A normal kid hears it as a fluid sentence. To my girl it is gibberish. It is like no depth perception with the eyes.

    There are things I allow with her I'd never have allowed with her four older brothers. They were forbidden to ignore us when we spoke to them. With her, it can look like arrogant disrespect, but I know that the piano is going in one room, birds are singing outside, and hubby is talking to a brother, and her brain just isn't hearing me. I have to get her attention first.

    She gets distracted constantly in church ( drives the SS teacher crazy sometimes). I had to homeschool- they said everytime somebody dropped a pencil or whispered she lost focus. If a baby starts up during the responsive reading, she loses focus. I know she misses part of every sermon.

    Yes, there are brain issues. I don't mean to say things can't be part of the wiring.

    But-this is vital- what the bible calls sin you must call sin. This is where the authority of scripture prevails. The bi polar guy I referred to if he went off his meds could go into a screaming cursing angry rage. He said it was chemical. Sorry, but it is sin.

    The other two bi polars I knew briefly were females. Rebellious, whiney, self centered, undisciplined, etc. Yeah the meds helped, it mellowed their moods. Does that mean when I smoked pot and a hash pipe in the 70s and it mellowed my moods that I needed a chemical? Or did I need the Lord? My parents never spanked me and I was an arrogant rebellious teenager planning suicide...was that chemical?

    Depression....if we fail to obey the biblical command to rejoice and be grateful, is that the brain or sin? Have you ever seen a severely depressed person who expresses appreciation in your presence for food, hot water, gasoline, dental care, and 1000 other things 85% of the world does not even have? Isn't that sin? I've known some people in depressions and the first words that come to mind are self pity and unbelief. Yeah they might perk up with sunlight and exercise and an SSRI, but let's call sin sin where it fits.

    I agree that there is a big difference between a wiggly little boy and an angry or depressed adult. I don't like putting ADD and bi polar in the same category.

    I don't have all the answers, but the intitial post about the disruptive guy sure sounds like sin to me.

    Anyway, I still think CCEF is a good place to start research. They have a lot of wisdom and balance while affirming the authority of scripture.
  10. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This is an interesting thread. My pastor and elders seem to be masters at dealing with disruptive people. We have in our church a number of elderly folk who come from the nursing home down the street. They get up in the middle of the service to use the restroom, they speak out in the service at inappropiate moments and make comments and prayer requests during Bible studies that have absolutely nothing to do with what is being said.

    Here is how much pastor and elders handle these people--the love of Christ. They treat these folks like everyone else, and when they discover how well they are loved, the disruptive behavior (for the most part) almost comes to an end. When one of these folks makes a comment that doesn't fit in with the discussion, he simply thanks them for their contribution, when they ask for prayer requests, he prays for them. He gives them the kind of love and attention that anyone would want.

    I have learned from his example, and these people that were so difficult and unlovely to me at the beginning are now people that I miss when they are away. They add to our worship, they add to our body of believers. I love them as much as anyone else.

    As far as people with more disruptive disorders, I think the approach should be the same. Show them the love of Christ. My :2cents:
  11. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dr. Lloyd-Jones was approached for advice by his deacons on dealing with a troubled individual who had entered the church just before the service. The Doctor said: "Treat him as you would a dog."

    Perhaps that was intelligible at the time, but since we have people who will actually let their dogs into the house, it might be as well to clarify. Lloyd-Jones did not mean "kick him if he gets close to you and holler 'Don't touch me!'" He also did not mean, "Scratch behind his ears and talk to him in babytalk." He meant, "Treat him firmly and with authority."

    Obviously, that will not be applicable to all situations, but a calm and yet authoritative approach can quiet a lot of people.
  12. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    Of course when it crosses the line into what scripture directly calls sin, then yes it is sin. But we (the church) should NOT put barriers in the way or place someone in the position of not having any ability to follow. What I mean is that if the person has outbursts that are not angry rages (just loud and perhaps not "appropriate" to the situation) then there isn't anything I know that makes it a direct violation of scripture.

    It might be that the leadership in the church would say that such outbursts must stop ... which would then set up a no-win situation for the man if he does have a true brain wiring problem, and there is no way for medication to be effective. (Brain chemistry is not something that medical science can fathom even for "behaviors" as well documented as seizures.) In that scenario the man would either have to fail the assembly of the saints (direct violation of the scriptures) or fail to submit to the authorities within the church. It would be no different than a group of really tall elders saying that in order to come into the church you had to slam-dunk a basketball to a 5 year old.

    Sure, if the man has medication that is effective, then he should use it and that should be part of the churches "rules" for him. If he by choice goes off the medications when he knows doing so causes him to do sinful acts, then the decision to go off the medications is sinful.

    As to the idea that there are those that could be just discipline problems that would have been better off with a spanking when they were young, that is fine if it is just a discipline problem, but because there is no way for medical science to tell why some people have problems that are real medical problems then how do we decide which is which? Doctors still cannot objectively measure chemical imbalances that cause seizure disorders, and the only positive diagnosis is through the measurement of the electrical impulses, but the underlying cause is still hidden. Seizure disorders are relatively easy to see what is wrong; hook up an EEG machine, and when one occurs it shows on the chart. Yet there is still no recognition for the underlying cause, and treatment is by guesswork and trying different medications that treat the symptom. In severe cases, not treating the symptom will kill the patient. Hopefully those that oppose use of drugs don't advocate allowing a child to die because the chemical imbalance can't be measured.

    The most severe brain disorders are more easily observed, and people readily accept that someone having seizures really cannot prevent them. It is a pity that there are many people that might not have the same level of disorder, that is still medical in nature, but they are castigated and ostracized by the church for behavioral problems if those problems are not direct violation of scripture.

    I am not saying that direct violation of scripture should be tolerated. Even if there is a chemical reason for it. But if someone's behavior is just inconvenient I cannot see how the church justifies a lack of mercy for those on her doorstep that are wounded.
  13. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    Tim, sorry I didn't see this ... as a deacon, I can speak to at least what parts would qualify as jurisdiction for deacons.

    First, I will cover what is NOT part of the deacons’ jurisdiction. If there is discipline for sin, it is not the place of the deacons to pursue it. The deacons are not a court of the church.

    What would fall to them is to help assure the pastor and elders are free to minister the word rather than wait tables. To that end, they can administer mercy. Is the reason the guy doesn’t take his meds because he cannot afford them? If so, the deacons should help intervene in obtaining medication for him. If the medication is not effective all the time even if he has taken it, then they can assign someone to sit with him to help him know when he needs to excuse himself before things get too out of hand – just getting him to get up and go out for a short break might be enough to help him through … I don’t know enough about this particular case.

    The ideal situation would be to have them walk along side the man and work toward assuring he has what he needs and is taking his medications, building a relationship with him so they recognize when he is not properly medicated, and establishing protocols to deal with situations that could arise. It isn’t easy, but waiting on tables never is.
  14. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor

    I realize this may be totally off base and you probably have no idea, but has he ever had his endocrine system checked out?

    I came across an article this morning that mentioned this, the article is more about women, but it might effect men in a similar way..granted he may not have epilepsy, but a hormonal imbalance in this system of the body can apparently bring about bi-polar well as epilepsy in some people..

    Webcast/CME - Neuroendocrine Dysfunction in Women with Neurologic or Psychiatric Illness

    Body Rhythms and Bipolar Disorder - Bipolar Disorder

    Neurochemistry and Endocrinology in Bipolar Disorder
  15. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    Love him as Christ loves you...forbearing your infirmities. Do not treat him according to his lack of graces or God may do the same to you. Pray that God would increase the love of his people as it appears much of them are growing cold. A heart overflowing with the love and grace of God will know how to treat those who have no advocate. Pray.
  16. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    I have limited experience with these issues (actually that's not exactly true: I taught high school for 11 years, so there were students who were diagnosed as ADD/ADHD and were medicated), so take the following anecdotal accounts with a grain of salt. I know of a fellow ARP minister (I attended seminary with him) who told a group of us one day that he was told this in school by a counselor as an excuse for disruptive behavior in class. His father took off his belt and used it appropriately and my friend never had an outburst again in class. Amazing, a little leather generated a little self-discipline, far more cheaply I might add that a bottle of pills.

    The other situation I remember is far more serious. I knew a fellow teacher once who was diagnosed as bipolar. He was hospitalized for a while and medicated, but not even that worked. He was a professing Christian, but he was also fed a good deal of that Bradshaw dribble about his "inner child", etc., so he found something to blame his problems on. I also personally witnessed him go through a severely depressive state once when he wife called me and another friend over because he wouldn't get out of bed and was nearly catatonic. He eventually destroyed our friendship, his marriage, and as far as I know he no longer attends church (and blames God for all of his problems, last I heard -- I have not seen him in a decade). Yet, in speaking with him way back when, the source of his problems (at least one source) was his holding on to sinful bitterness in his life. He resented his parents greatly (the near-catatonic episode occurred when they visited one weekend and he could not deal with it because of past experiences) because he never "fit in" with the family and felt that they loved his brother more than they loved him. He never dealt with the situation, never tried to reconcile, grew more and more bitter, leading to wild mood swings and lashing out at everyone he was close to.

    -----Added 2/24/2009 at 10:07:15 EST-----

    That may not be a bad idea, but if that happens, make sure it is a doctor who will do a through exam to try to uncover physiological reasons rather that simply writing a prescription.

    Even Jay Adams, who does not like the use of medication in treating such disorders, recommends an initial medical checkup in dealing with situations like this. He tells the story of a middle-aged woman who (practically overnight) suddenly began experiencing wild mood swings and disruptive behavior. He recommended she be checked out by a medical doctor before being counseling, and they discovered she had a tumor on one of her ovaries that was playing havoc with her hormones. Once the tumor was removed, she was fine again. If not for that doctor, she most likely would have been dead.
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