Who Turned Out The Lights In That Church?
The first Sunday I drove past the little church on the corner over twenty years ago it was a thriving little fellowship of believers. The parking lot was full and people were hanging around after church talking, smiling, even laughing with one another.
Year by year, though, there were a few more empty parking spaces, and people seemed to be enjoying one another less. The smiles turned to frowns and everyone seemed in a hurry to get out of there.
And then, there was the haunting sign, “Come meet our new pastor!” Someone in the church must have felt the symptoms of the church’s terminal spiritual disease and stored that sign somewhere because about every three years there it was again: “Come meet our new pastor!” (Oh, and with a yellow smiley face that faded a little more each time they strung up the last pastor; I mean last sign.)
And finally, the church was gone. And a new sign went up: “Single Family Homes In the 600s” (I live in SoCal so that means in the $600,000s!)
My question, though, has nothing to do with real estate deals. It’s about the year before someone turned out the lights in that church.
When some small group of warring leaders felt the only option was to part ways (the pastor resigned and moved on or the pastor was fired) and repost the sign, “Come meet our new pastor! (smiley face),” how did the rest of the congregation or denomination react? Were they afraid to ask questions? Was anyone advocating for the reconciliation Jesus had in mind when He told us to love one another? Was it made clear that the kingdom costs of splitting a church were grave, so grave that no believer or leader should even contemplate dissension just to have things their way?
And maybe they could have started a conversation about unity the year before the year before they had to repost their happy “come meet our new pastor” sign. Or even the year before that.
Or how about when the tensions and the mistrust first began to tear at the relational fabric of God’s leaders?
Love is the transformative power in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. All around us we see a world where people strive to get their way, their due, their recognition. But we’re to live by a different metric–the measure of loving one another.
What will we say the next time someone tells us it’s too late, there’s too much hurt, too many wounds to even try to reconcile?