Dealing with Difficult People in the Church

1 Thess 5:14-15 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

There are just times in life when you are going to have to deal with difficult people. Just the other day my seven year old daughter told me that when she says hi to a girl in her class the girl replies “I don’t like you!” It’s sad because the girl is the daughter of a pastor and you would expect better but as we all know dealing with difficult people can be tough. It is especially so in the church because we usually expect more from others than we do from ourselves.

Paul gives us some tips on the seven types of difficult people that you will come across in the church:

  1. Disorderly: The ESV uses idle which is correct but misses the point here. Disorderly carries the meaning of an insubordinate soldier. These are the people in the church who are out of step with where the church is going. Paul tells us to admonish them. That means we need to come alongside them and instruct them or speak some sense into them. Disorderly people disrupt and corrupt people in the church with their anger which has usually festered into bitterness. It is the job of the mature believers to speak to them.
  2. Worried: Worried is just another word for fainthearted. The worry warts in the church are those who are clustered in the middle of the church working to make the church as safe and secure as possible. They don’t want the church risking anything and will resist any work that might bring persecution in their life. Paul tells us that we need to encourage them to step out in faith. We are not to give into their concerns but in turn push them towards what God wants them to do.
  3. Weak: The word weak here means those who are weak when it comes to temptation. They are susceptible to giving into to it and need people to come alongside them and help them with it. Whether it be a addiction recovery or a mature believer walking with them as they get stronger in their resistance to temptation we as a church are to help them do that. So many people are suffering in silent addiction worrying about judgment from those in the church.
  4. Wearisome: The end of vs. 14 says “be patient with them all.” Paul knows that it is easy to become frustrated with problem people. It is double;y difficult when you have invested time in people and they show little commitment. Paul reminds us to be patient with them. Several times Jesus chided the disciples because of their lack of faith. We need to have endless patience with people.
  5. Wicked:The most difficult people to deal with are the wicked. These are people who purposely try to hurt others, usually through their words. In vs. 15 Paul tells us not to repay evil for evil and to do good to everyone. Simply put we are not supposed to retaliate against them. Although this is the greatest temptation instead we are to repay them with good. Rom 12:20 says that we are to feed them. Now most of us are on board with not swinging back but very few would get on board with having them over for dinner. What this shows is that we are above the hurt that was intended.

I have dealt with these types of people over and over in the church. They drain you of every resource but they can not take your joy. If Christ is our true source of strength, peace, and joy we will consider it a privilege to minister to them.

3 replies
  1. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Chuck – why can’t everyone be like us!? On Sunday morning, everyone is in their seat – but on the inside they are like a flock of sheep going hither, thither, and yon. I see that you have a “W” thing going on with your list. Would ‘wayward’ work for the disorderly – the ones out of step with the church?

    Anyway, the admonition is always timely to be patient with all men. Thanks, Chuck.

  2. Jon Langley
    Jon Langley says:

    Aliteration Deficit Disorder… nice.

    I have to say that the 4th “W” (if we assume #1 is changed to “W”ayward) is an enormous struggle for me. Patience has always been hard for me, but it’s been at it’s worst the last couple of years. I’ve been trying to find some sort of Biblical justification or precedent for just calling it quits on people who don’t seem to get it and tire my mind and soul. But I can’t find any! 🙁

    Thanks for the encouraging reminder from God’s word, brother.

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