It is the same story heard and repeated much to often these days. Differences in vision and vehicle. Ideas clashing, no one listening, before you know it rumors of "split" and "voted out" spin.
My husband and I realized recently, this scenario is just one of the issues God has called us to speak to. When we share God's message of how "It's not about religion, it's about relationship" we realize we are speaking to a wounded nation. One where the greatest injuries to Christians and skeptics have been inflicted by the very institution that sought to convert them in the first place.
Aren't we all human though? Don't even families and businesses have their disagreements, their bull-headed uncle Johns and sweet soft spoken aunt Betties clashing over the tiniest details? Why should a church be any different? A building filled with a collection of individuals, ideas for ministry, ideas for reaching out or pulling in... swirling around one big place. My husband and I have a hard enough time finding middle ground on certain details and we are just two people... how could a whole congregation (or even just a church board).
So what is the problem?
I think it starts with listening and hearing. I think too many people get full of their own ideas and don't want to compromise. I mean really compromise which requires a person to completely let go of self. Call it pride, ego, absence of humility, or even simply the presence of humanity. Whatever you want to call it, when a tug-of-war ensues... someone is eventually going to loose. What if everyone set down their end of the rope and walked to the the edge of the pit and talked it out?
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. - James 1:19-20 (ESV)
It isn't just churches though, it is families, friends and even communities. No one wants to completely let go of self and hold onto God for the outcomes. It is this lack of trust in Him who is greater and our tendency to cling to what is less. Like sand through the fingers, we never truly have a hold when all we are really reaching for is self.
But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. - Titus 3:9 (NRSV)
After I hung up the phone, the kids and I took a path through the park and by the gazebo my husband and I were married in...only that gazebo is gone. It was torn down about 6+ years ago and replaced with a new structure: a small pavilion covered in tiles created by community members sharing messages from many different belief and age groups.
It was striking to me, as I contemplated the different tiles, mulling over my phone conversation in my mind, how diverse they were. There were...
...tiles with messages of Hope and Christ and pictures of Churches and crosses...
...intermingled with eagles
... and mountains and groups more secular.
Standing among the four pillars I felt a sense of true community. I may not agree with all of the beliefs portrayed, but I can agree we are all children of God... even if some members of the Family don't acknowledge it. Here they are, drawing together for one commonality, setting aside differences to focus on similarities: the beautification of a park.
Why can't the church do that? The members of one church or even the churches of one community. Set aside differences, humble themselves to let go of themselves and reach out to beautify the hearts of man. After all, isn't that what Jesus told us to do? So why can't we?
Even I have to remind myself to reach out. To give food to the less fortunate, to share a message even with the def, to walk the extra mile even if it means the person I seek to reach just runs farther. I must let go of myself, my judgements, my presumptions and rest only in what God sees: the hope for a Kingdom in the hearts of all mankind.
It isn't about me.
It isn't even about you.
It is about God and what we are willing to let go of so we can hold tighter to Him. That is what I am working on, that is how I am seeking to humble myself, that is how I wish to feel God closer.
Every life has testimonies of how God intercedes to show His power and glory. To read the first installment in a brand new series of books about God's divine work in one person's life, click below