Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting along

I found out something recently that bothers me. There is a church near me filled with people who split off from my church and other similar churches to make this one. Someone who attends there made the statement that in their Bible studies, they mostly discuss why they aren't of a certain denomination anymore. When I heard that, I said two things. First off - "Bitter much?" Second: "too bad they don't discuss why they aren't sinners anymore - would be more profitable." But really - how profitable is it to keep rehashing why they don't like my church/denomination. One of them had - and as far as I know, still has, a website where he spews vitrol, lies, and hateful comments about my denomination and its leaders. Really? Is that Christian?

I have gone through two church splits in my life. The first was when I was a teenager. I remember feeling hurt and confused. People I thought highly of just up and left because they couldn't get along with the pastor. All these years later, I still don't get it. The issue seemed so small and dumb.

Fast forward to a few years ago, my current church. I was living in Indiana, but it still affected me. The people involved sent vicious emails out trying to tear good men down. They sent them to try to recruit people to their cause. Even though I was 400 miles away, I was fair game. They ended up leaving the church and taking several people with them. They were suing my denomination over the sale of a church they didn't even attend. Their membership was going to be pulled - made sense to me, they were suing us! - so they left, and took as many people with them as possible.

It happens all of the time, all across the world, across denominations. People splitting off from others. Well, I have some thoughts that I said all of that to get to, so here goes.

Ever notice when something like that happens, the unhappy party takes several people with them? Why is that? Because they belly ache, talk, complain, etc to anyone who lends a sympathetic ear. That is wrong. If they are going to leave, they need to go quietly without trying to drag others with them. I am not naive enough to believe that everyone who is a Christian is going to get along 100% with everyone - but isn't that what God wants?

And if we are committed to God, committed to loving everyone as He asks us to, then why don't we quietly leave, instead of stirring up as much trouble as we can, and pulling as many people with us when we go? And after we do leave, why can't we shut our mouths and quit putting down the church or denomaination we left?!

Unfortunately in the day we live in, people who claim to be Christians have some issues. Selfishness, pride, the desire to have our own way. We aren't interested in just going to church to worship. We want to be seen and heard. We want power. We want our own way.

I could be wrong on this, but I don't think I am - if a church was filled with true Christians who wanted to please God more than anything else, who loved their brothers and sisters in the church as God commands us to - I don't believe there would be church splits. Sure, there would still be people changing churches - personalities come into it, and churches are all different. What you like in a church might be the opposite of what I like in a church - though I am not sure what that is anymore.

So are the splinters wrong, un-Christian? I think most of the time they are. It depends on the attitude of the heart, their actions, and how they leave. We left a church once. The church my parents grew up in. The church I grew up in. The pastor is a hypocritical jerk. We tried to resolve it, but when the preacher is mad at you and preaching directly at you from the pulpit, and any effort to talk to him is met by a cold rebuff - it is time to leave, so leave we did - and quietly. All these years later, I view him with disgust, but not bitterness. I don't talk about him - well, guess I am here a bit - but what is the sense in that? Let it go.

I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, nor am I any John Wesley. I don't set myself up as a paragon of virtue. If you read this and start thinking that I think I am Mr Perect - how wrong you are. But.... I am disillusioned with the church and Christians in general. The day may come where I don't go to church at all. Bad idea? Maybe - but who says you can't home church. Yeah, yeah - I know - "forsake not the assembling, etc, etc." But people say that is because we need to be around other Christians for encouragement, etc. Well guess what - that ain't happening - I'd get as much encouragement at home, but I digress....

Back to my point: I think we get too caught up in what we want out of church, instead of focusing on what God wants. You want a less conservative church? What if He doesn't. You want a stricter church? What if He wants you where you are. You want a bigger church? A more lively church? You want offices, to be seen up front, and the list goes on. If we were honest, how many of us really seek God's will and spend thought on what God wants for us at church? Oh, we may claim to, and pull our self righteous robes around us - but do we really? Do we go to church to worship God, or are we going for other reasons?

I have been pretty outspoken about my unhappiness with my church. Oh, nothing to cause a split over - though if I left, it would be alone. No trying to drag people with me..... I have had people urge me to look elsewhere - and I may some day, but to be honest - I think I expect too much out of church and God's people. Maybe we all do. Thing is, I'm not sure at this point in my life that there is a church I'd be truly happy in. I have too much going on inside right now for one thing, and for another.... as bad as this sounds, I am not sure there is a church I'd agree with 100%. I don't agree with mine 100%, but I agree with enough to stay.

We tend to box God in. We think this demomination or that one has it totally wrong, and the people there couldn't possibly be true Christians, but God can meet people anywhere, and He can make people happy anywhere - if we let Him.

I think so many church problems - and even marriage problems - would dissolve if people sought God and His will above all else, and laid aside their selfish desires and wishes. Yeah, maybe even me. And yes, people would still change churches and denominations - we are human after all, but if the selfishness was gone, the desire to have our own way, I think there would be a lot less of that, and I truly believe there wouldn't be church splits. But what do I know. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed......

And I know I have been rough on church splitters and splinters, but I do believe there wouldn't be so many people leave with the perpetrators if there was no gossip and taking sides going on. And when they leave, they should keep their mouth shut, and quit being so angry and bitter.

And I am sure I offended people in the church that I used as an example, but hey, your actions led to my blog post, so get over it.

And yes, there have been people I have confidence in who have left in church splits...and I still have confidence in some of them, but have to wonder if it was God's will.
The perfect church does not exist, nor the perfect denomination, but if we seek God with all our heart, seek His will above all else, and love our Christian brothers and sisters..... it might be as close to perfect as a church could be in this sinful world.