Monday, July 09, 2007

Christian Fighting...

I don't mind admitting that I have been discouraged lately. The church can be a very discouraging place to be sometimes. I have been involved in two congregations that seem to spend more time fighting than doing anything else and where truth was far down on the list of priorities.

There are two ways that the problem can be fixed. First, Christian ministers and laity can learn how to talk and, more importantly, disagree with each other without resorting to name calling. I was talking to a deacon in another church recently who told me that one of the board of deacons stood up, pointed his finger at people and started calling them liberals, post-moderns, etc. While these labels may have some useful academic purposes of identifying different theologies, I do not believe they have a place in church meetings when they are being used to degrade others. (Also, I think most people only have "stereotype" understandings of these terms, and have no idea what they really mean.) None of us has all the answers, and we have to be able to admit that.
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
The above quote is from 1 Corinthians 13 commonly known as the love chapter and it is familiar to most Christians. However, many Christians do not realize is its context. It immediately follows Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts. When considered in that context, the message becomes apparent. Even if I am the most spiritually gifted person in a deacon's meeting, if I do not have love for my fellow Christians, I have nothing. I think it is also a pretty strong condemnation of Christians acting like Children. How do Children act? Well, when children disagree, sometimes you hear them say they are going to take their toys and go home because they don't agree with something that is going on. Ever hear a Christian say he or she is going to take his tithe to another church that will appreciate it? Or a pastor say if you don't do it his way, he won't do it at all? We have to remember who we serve. We are not serving ourselves or even our pastor; we are serving our Lord.

Don't get me wrong. There are times when Christians can and should disagree, but there is a right way to do it. For instance, one should always stand up for the truth (something that seems to happen all too seldom), but he can do it in a way that does not demean others.

The second way this will be fixed is very simple. People will simply stop coming to church. Whether it is fair or not, people hold their church leaders, whether they are ministers, deacons or other leaders, to a higher standard. This is especially true of non-Christians. Many are just looking for a reason to ignore Christianity or support their conception that we are all just a bunch of hypocrites.

Churches have to realize that this childlike behavior is not only driving away church members, it is also discouraging people from going into full time Christian service in the local church.

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