I thought Christianity would be more pleasant. I mean, I thought Christians would somehow exemplify Christ in dealing with differences. Also, I thought Christians would be consistently seeking to grow in the Lord. Of course, it is not that way. I found that out early in my walk, particularly when I became a minister. When I became a minister I immediately ran into the push and shove of church government. I found that there were the power struggles, the petty infighting, and the need for recognition. There were the various leaders who laid claim to their little territories and dared any to touch them. The doors for new people coming into any place of service were few.
I was particularly surprised that people would not continue their growth in the Lord and would camp on some limited sense of doctrines and refuse to consider anything else or more of God. I served as a youth pastor in one church where the senior pastor and his wife were educated and associated with the early moves of what is called Pentecostalism. They had known Amy Semple McPherson, founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church. Yet, they had downplayed the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. They did not mention it, but functioned with that anointing, but no offer or teaching for others to receive. The congregation thus was a mix of some spirit filled people, and many who were not and had no knowledge of it. When Cathy and I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, we were immediately attacked by the assistant pastor who was not spirit filled and did not hold that belief. The senior pastor told him that there was certainly an experience of the Holy Spirit. It began to create division in the church. I was unaware of the trouble as we were having some powerful Holy Spirit experiences in the youth meetings. The Lord called us to Texas without even being aware of the divisions in the church. When I announced we were answering the call to Texas, a friend asked if we were fired. I told him I knew nothing of that, but was just following the Lord.
My question became, "Why would you believe in something as the leader and not want your people to know and receive?" This was not the first nor the last of these kinds of experiences or questions. Even though the Scripture says this, "But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized!" (I Cor. 11:19) Even though this is true, it still does not make it easy. Broken relationships are difficult, hard, gut rending, but sometimes necessary for all.
In every situation in life we would like to have a perfect explanation, a reason, a simple logical answer. We would also like to stand on the high ground and say we were right and “they” were wrong. It is not like that; yet we want people to take sides and make everything black and white. Take, for instance, divorces. In the heat of the problems there comes a place where neither party can continue as is. But what follows is problematic. The rules are that somebody has to be blamed, someone has to be the guilty party. However, the truth is that there are no blameless persons in the issue; some just handled them poorly and broke covenant. Then comes the court battles, the grab for property and money, the fight over child custody, and the campaign for allies to hate the other person. The collateral damage takes on huge proportions. It is not just the couple separating; it is the kids, the grandparents, the friends, and the business associates. All these are collateral damage and all receiving second hand offenses with little or insufficient facts, but true to their allegiance, they blindly hate, separate, accuse, and spread the one sided, insufficient story.
The strange thing is that down the road, the couple may come to a civilized, workable arrangement, but the second hand offenses remain. They remain because the couple does not go fix what they broke or tell the truth of their part in the sad affair.
Life is messy. Not every change is well received. Companies change leaders, schools change administrators, teachers, and churches change vision and direction. It does not mean that the administrator who left is bad or the teacher who goes is a poor educator. Companies change CEO’s, corporate officers, and management from time to time to keep the company viable. Sometimes in churches, there are changes in staff and leadership. All that is for the long term benefit of the church. Churches have to keep current with the current move of God and that is not easy.
As we are going through changes that are necessary for the welfare of the church long term, it is not easy. We have friends and loved ones who have chosen to move on and we have new folks who are joining our vision. It does not make those who are moving on bad people, it is just where things are at the moment. We are not bad people for staying and working on the change. The challenge lies before us.
When friendships are tested and each has to go a direction that causes some separation, it does not mean that friendships should not be maintained. It will mean that the paths will not cross as frequently, but they will cross from time to time.
I look forward to the process of growing and following the current move of God for us. I still look forward, pressing for the mark, the high calling. Pursuing the Lord is a lifelong pursuit; you are never done, never finished. It is an adventure that lasts a lifetime. So, follow hard after Him. This is a new day: Onward and Upward!
- Pastor Bill