What happens when a church tears itself apart?
In 16 years of vocational ministry I have witnessed crazy. Elders slamming their fists on a pulpit demanding congregational submission. One staff member saying a picture of a mix race couple can’t be used in church marketing. A church member calling the office to let staff know that if the pews are removed the tithing stops. Pastors who stopped believing in Jesus but stayed in their jobs. Church leaders denying the faith but refusing to leave their position. Affairs. Adultery. Theft. Addiction.
It’s been bumpy.
Now I sit 2,522 miles from my former church where I served as an associate pastor, and the calls are streaming to my phone about the church drama. A pastor, my friend, is being let go from his ministry because… well, that’s the catch, I can’t seem to uncover the official reason. I’ve heard some rumors. One involved the pastor being a bully and bullying me out, not true. One involved me being paid to leave, apparently someone owes me 50k (I’m still waiting for the check).
While none of these are true I have to say, my former church was not perfect, nor was the pastor. No church staff is. Did I see sin in others? Sure, just like I see it in my myself everyday. I repent of my sin, and I pray they repent of theirs. Unfortunately, it seems that repentance has become passé on many fronts at my old church. The church is dividing, and when churches divide something dies.
My first church division experience happened at a church that couldn’t agree on the hiring of a new senior pastor. The church went from 1200 to 900 t0 700 to 300 to less.
Now another church is dividing. No one wins in this situation. There is no victory. Pastors are burned and run off. Church leadership reacts and finds a pastor that suits their needs. Then before we know it, the faith candle (a candle that is lit every time someone makes a first time decision to follow Christ) grows dusty and the wax that once ran down the sides of a vibrant ministry collects dust and sits in shadows. The mission of evangelism and discipleship flickers as it starves for oxygen, and I sit and listen to tear-filled pleas for prayer.
Sitting thousands of miles away puts me outside of any circle, but my heart can’t stop grieving because this church in Glendora, CA is my family, and they’re tearing themselves apart. It’s like they’re all in a snow globe being shaken; from their perspective it’s a massive storm. From 2,500 miles away I’m screaming, “Stop shaking the snow globe, it’s going to fall and shatter.”
No one can hear me. Why should they?
So I will pray this prayer:
Father, please intervene. Help my friend to repent of his sins and be filled with peace once again. Lead the elders turn from anger and malice to a place of tenderness and reconciliation. Please, let my church family run to you and turn their face from division and hate. There are people in Glendora dying and suffering apart from your grace, let the church be a beacon of hope and freedom that I have seen in the past. Unite the staff to fear your name and hold fast to your statutes. Put the cross of Christ at the center of every conversation. Let the faith candle burn bright with revival and make their baptismal overflow as captives are set free and the blind are given sight. God, please reach into my west coast family and bring a miracle. Whether my friend stays or goes, reach in, reach deep, and bring revival. Amen.