I wish you readers could be with me right now. I’m sitting in a hotel restaurant in front of a fire in Paso Robles, Calif., on one of those “California Dreamin on such a winter’s day” days. It’s rainy and cold. Earlier in the week, we were in wine growing areas of Sonoma/Napa areas of California. Evidently, there is some competition between Napa and Sonoma on who grows the best wine. I saw a shirt that said, “Sonoma makes great wine. Napa makes auto parts.”

But what does this have to do with the title of this article? Well, I’m not sure. The setting here is just too good not to write about, I suppose. And I really liked that shirt. But let’s get on with this thought for today. Now that is quite a title, isn’t it? Why do churches and people in churches sometimes misbehave?

The book of James in the Bible shows how one of the church’s early pastors skillfully addresses the issues inside of the people who attended the churches of that time. James confronts, diagnoses, and deals with the people’s areas of misbelief and misbehavior openly and wisely. Wisdom just does that. The introduction to the book of James in the Message Bible explains this perfectly.

“When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business – and dishonest business at that. Insiders see if differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church. So, Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced and dealt with.”

A bumper sticker notes, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

It’s nice to see one place on earth where what is hidden in darkness can come out into the light and be dealt with biblically in a safe and accepting environment. Church is designed to be a model of grace, but not denial. Denial doesn’t get anyone better. Nothing can be changed until it’s faced. So, James helped the people grow through their issues, not just go through their issues, over and over again.

Just think. If this is happening inside the church, it is happening outside of church just as much, if not more. In today’s dog-eat-dog, performance-based world outside of the church, very few have the courage to confess their issues and deal with their issues until it is too late. It’s like the story I read this week.

“I was at the beach this week and I saw a person in the water. He was yelling, ‘Help! Shark help!’ I just laughed because I knew the shark wasn’t going to help.” You are probably not going to get real help from the sharks out there waiting for blood in the water.

So please don’t be so judgmental on people who have the courage to deal God’s way with their issues. The process is messy but the results are clean.

To learn more about Pastor Ed Delph, the Church-Community Connection and Nationstrategy, call 623-376-6757, e-mail nationstrategy@cs.com, or log on www.nationstrategy.com.