This post is part of a chain blog by Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church dealing with divisive issues. I wanted to post before now but as usual I became reluctant asking more questions on topics rather than having a lot of answers. But, I’m not finding answers just thinking to myself. So, this post is probably going to bring out questions I have but will also show my approach to this divisive issue. I may just be in over my head but that’s part of searching…wading through the deep to find answers and be refined by Christ.
Two weeks ago something amazing happened in my life. Most of you reading this from Alan’s blog may not fully understand the weight here, but that’s okay. You will still get the point.
Almost a year ago I left a youth ministry that I loved dearly. I still talk to some of the students, some of them attend the church plant I came on staff with at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately because of adult divisiveness some of them still have a grudge…I’m not sure they know why they are mad or why they avoid me. A few adult volunteers and I didn’t see eye to eye on some issues, pretty secondary issues at that. I can’t completely blame them…they are steeped in tradition. The church was built in the 1850’s or somewhere back then. But, this isn’t about traditions and when and where those are acceptable. Instead, it’s about my leadership, really…or lack thereof and the divisiveness it caused.
At 27 I have learned some lessons regarding ministry the hard way. If you are really attempting to love and reach people hurt happens. Many people are hurting and well, when people hurt they lash out at other people most of the time. Guilty (points finger at self). I’ve had to deal with anger issues on my own personal front. Some of that came out weeks before I left that small country church. Regardless of the other side being right or wrong (and before you analyze the situation, reader, in your own mind) I am looking at the failure of leadership that has caused me to seek unity at whatever cost.
Leaving in a bad situation caused scars. “Scars are souvenirs that never leave, the past is never far.” as the Goo Goo Dolls put it. Reality is how we learn from the scars we have. Seeking unity is one way for scars to speak glory to Christ and not to myself. For over a year I have longed to be healed of the hurt from this situation. Every time I drove by the church I felt anger build up inside. Sad part is, the guy I had the falling out with has been a great friend since middle school. We allowed pride and selfishness to come between us.
Ephesians 4 carries more weight with me now: “Walk in a manner of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” That is enough to break me. For a year now I have carried the lack of these God-like qualities that draw us as believers unto our Lord. I just recently asked God to take these pains, anger and unforgiveness towards people who I felt had wronged me. I realized it wasn’t about being right or wrong and who got the short end or who seemingly came out on top. Rather, it was about unity within the body. I failed in that area of my life.
As a young pastor I am ambitious and passionate wanting others to be as passionate as I am. But, I failed to take people on the journey. I tried to control too much. I stepped on toes with wrong motives…epic fail.
So, two weeks ago I attended a state wide youth event called Super Summer held at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, MO. The place I have my Bible degree from. The place I got a big head that I knew what it took to make people follow Christ, at any cost…seems that included the destruction of unity. At the worship service I was awaiting my mentor to come out (he heads up the student stuff for the state convention so he was busy)…I waited around chatting with people I knew.
Just so happens the church I left about a year ago was there. Students and leaders included. The guy I mentioned having the falling out with approached me and said he couldn’t stand the weight anymore and apologized for how things went down that led to me leaving. At that moment I felt weight lifted from me…I’m an emotional guy, I’m sensitive…this was a big deal for me and for him. We cried and hugged in an almost empty auditorium. I haven’t worshiped so freely in quite a while. Guess I should have heeded that part about go to your brother before the sun goes down huh? Well, forgiveness happened right there. Unity somewhat restored…at least now there isn’t hatred anymore. We can move on.
Moments later I saw my mentor, hugged him and briefly explained to him what happened. I still need to tell him more on this when his summer travels have ceased. I also, saw my old Resident Director…he was like a dad to me, big deal coming from a divorced family and my dad and I not having a great relationship. He man hugged me and we talked for a good while about what had happened moments prior. And he said something I will never forget in view of the church, the body of Christ. It isn’t mine, it’s His. Joe said, “God is our Father and the church is His bride. That is your momma. No body talks about your momma do they?” I responded with a no because Joe knows how close I am to my mom. Most guys who are don’t let trash be said about the women who sacrifice so much for them.
The point? Christ came to build the church, the body of believers in His name, His honor and His glory. Who am I to divide it like I did? So, in conclusion, with many questions ahead I am challenging those of you reading this to fight for your mom, the bride of Christ…Paul continues, “There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, on God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” We are losing a battle on the front lines, people are perishing and we are worried about what our buildings look like, ourselves look like and where we go to find people to build relationships with. The lost aren’t coming to us…rightly so, look at what we fight over. Let us come with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…be eager to maintain unity. Go together and with these characteristics God will use you, his bride, to reach the world that so desperately needs Him.
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Previous Posts in the chain blog:
1. “Chain Blog: Dealing with Divisive Issues Introduction” by Alan
2. “Chain Blog: Dealing with divisive issues starts with love” by Arthur
3. “I am divisive” by Jeremy
4. “Chain Blog: Please agree with me” by Jon
5. “Division and our shared humanity” by Andy
6. “Chain Blog: solving the problem” by Bobby
7. “Divisiveness: Acts 2 & Ugly Carpet” by fallenpastor
8. “Stimulating our Collective Memory” by Trista
9. “No, we can’t just get along” by Alan
10. “Who says we are divided?” by Jon
11. “Disunity and the mind of Christ” by Fred
12. “We Are United in Our Division” by Andy
13. “Finding Equilibrium: ‘rest in one another’” by Sherry