Home group is normally a relaxing place for affirming spiritual growth in followers of Christ. People are there because they want to be there and grow with other like-minded followers of Christ. However, each person is at a different stage of growth and every once in a while, God is going to allow the leader and the whole group to experience the angry outburst or seething anger bubbling over. It might come because of conviction over sin, a political statement made by one of the participants or someone was having a terrible, horrible, no good day!
What do you as home group leader do? The world might say, “Put the person in their place,” or “Let the person vent,” or “Let’s all get in touch with our feelings!” However, those would be man’s way of dealing with it. What does God have to say about how to deal with angry outbursts or anger that bubbles over?
The first thing a leader must do is abide in God’s peace and remain calm. When a believer is filled with the Spirit, he will bear the fruit of the Spirit and part of the fruit is peace, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” (Gal. 5:22 NKJ) It is the peace that surpasses all comprehension (Phil. 4:7). In fact, the fruit of the Spirit is also characterized by self-control, “…gentleness, self-control. (Gal. 5:23 NKJ). Spiritual self-control remains calm.
Respond with a calm voice.
How the leader responds will declare volumes on how the group will perceive his shepherding. The leader communicates with words, tone of voice and non-verbal expressions. Words are actually a small part of the communication – about 7%. The tone of voice accounts for 35% and the non-verbal portion accounts for 58% of the communication. Hence, as Solomon said, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Pro. 15:1 NKJ)
Seek to understand what is going on in the heart.
The reason for the anger is something that comes from the heart, so seek to understand what is going on in the heart. Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. “(Matt. 15:18 NKJ) A leader can demand that there be no outbursts, but that may restrict authenticity and prevent God from using the group to help the person through his deep-seated anger issue. It may be important to listen for a moment there to what he is saying and then ask to meet outside of the group. That allows the group to see you care about the person and want to protect him from having to expose issues that would be too deeply embarrassing. That may be exactly what others are wanting to see, so they can take steps to be more authentic.
Listen to understand.
There is listening and then there is listening to understand. Some will listen while they are reading the paper or watching television, but they are not really engaged. Listening means eye contact and focus, so that if an action step is needed, it can be done. Solomon wrote, “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways.” (Pro. 8:32 NKJ) Godly listening expects doing as the outcome.
Guard others in the group.
The person who expresses anger is important, but so is the group. Depending on the content, guard the group. There may be some who come from abusive situations and the outburst may cause them to have a flashback of old memories. Shepherd the sheep with a voice that brings calm and control, so that all sheep can continue feeding on the Word. Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16 NKJ) The angry person is one party and the group is another party and the leader’s voice will bring them together, but be sure to care for the whole group.
Provide hope that everything will be alright.
The leader’s role is to provide confidence that everything will be alright. Most people do not like conflict, but in this case, the group sees the leader is calmly confident and dealing well with the anger. The leader’s faith will project hope for the whole group, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13 NKJ)
Remove someone if they continue to be angry.
Sometimes it does no good to continue dealing with the person and he may need to be removed. That is a last resort of course, but it has happened. Some people are characterized by anger, “All his days he also eats in darkness, And he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.” (Ecc. 5:17 NKJ) For the sake of the group, he may need to be removed.
Meet with him outside of the group.
Before you remove someone, meet with him outside of the group. This is where the leader can listen to understand. The person may be ensnared by the devil and this is God’s opportunity to refine the leader to work through some of his own issues,
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26 NKJ)
Request an apology to the group as necessary
Depending on the outburst, an apology to the group may be necessary. Certainly as Peter wrote, “”…love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8 NKJ) Yet, an apology and/or forgiveness should be sought for complete restoration to the holiness of God and the wholeness of the group, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “ (Luke 17:3 NKJ)
Consider also the following passages when discipling the man:
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Pro. 16:32 NKJ)
The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression. (Pro. 19:11 NKJ)
He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, and the rod of his anger will fail. (Pro. 22:8 NKJ)
Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy? (Pro. 27:4 NKJ)
Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools. (Ecc. 7:9 NKJ)
A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention. (Pro. 15:18 NKJ)
Leadership means dealing with anger issues. Do not be afraid of it. Trust the Lord in the power of His Spirit and you’ll be able to help your brother through it, as well as the entire group.