recently been sick and in the hospital. During the stay, I
was notified via text that my services were no longer needed."
While the pastor lay suffering in the hospital the church
leadership council chose to pull the plug. And deliver the
unexpected news via text message.
Cold? Callous? Yes. But, unfortunately, not uncommon. Church
people-staff and members alike-seem drawn into petty conflicts that
lead predictably into destruction. And this self-inflicted wounding
is killing the church-from the inside out.
I recently asked a church secretary to describe the
interactions she deals with during a typical week. "These people
are constantly fighting," she said. "Somebody is always mad at
someone for something."
"But this is a church," I said. "How often do you hear people
talking about God?"
She just laughed. "Never."
It makes me sad. And it's draining the church. It's the chief
cause people leave a church. Some never return-to any church.
Sometimes the ugliness starts at the top. Church staff engage
in turf wars, passive-aggressiveness, insecurities, prideful
positioning, controlling behaviors, and personnel buffoonery.
And sometimes it's the members who lead the way in bickering,
selfishness, and side-taking over staff members. In some churches
it becomes a matter of team spirit. Members decide and declare
whether they're on the pro-minister team or the anti-minister
People take sides. People get hurt. And hurt people tend to
hurt people. That's the insidious nature of church infighting. It
feeds on itself.
In some ways, this is nothing new. People in the church have
fought among themselves since the earliest days. It did not go
unnoticed among the Bible's writers. In his letters to the
Corinthians, Paul warned about the folly of going through the
motions of church without the central acting out of love for
another. No manner of eloquent speaking, accurate exegesis or
service to the needy matters without love for another.
"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't
love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak
God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making
everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a
mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I
give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be
burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no
matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt
without love." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 MSG)
Jesus said outsiders will evaluate his people by the quality
of their love for one another. So, if we want a strong church, a
significant church, a growing church, then we must first focus
inside-on loving one another.
Before we're ready to preach to the world how to live, we must
first show the world how we on the inside love one another. How we
learn to get along. How we learn to disagree with decency and
civility. How we learn to work out our differences. How we learn to
deal directly and tactfully with one another. How we learn to
forgive one another.
This inward emphasis deserves a month of Sundays. Until
we clean up our house on the inside we're not ready to invite
guests from the outside.