A congregational conversation already in progress… One Sunday morning… After this pastor had resigned…
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By now you know my thoughts on the importance of identifying our “red dot”. It helps us know our starting point in order to know where we are going and how we plan to get there. Here at [our church] the sum of the many red dots in our midst may not be adding up to a very bright picture for some. Some still have questions, many are struggling and some are confused by the events and emotions floating around that show themselves in congregational meetings.
However, we all have some things in common. We have been saved and sanctified by grace. And we all have a desire for [this congregation] to be a fruitful, pure, passionate church for the Lord.
Some things could hinder our movement as a body while we face this time of transition. Mind you, [this body] has the feel of a church always in transition simply because of the nature of being an International Church. Let me explain:
The first thing that could hinder forward movement in our body is a misunderstanding of the purpose and nature of conflict. James 4 gives us a very clear picture of where conflict comes from.
James 4:1 (TMG) “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. 2 You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”
“You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? 3 And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.”
Hard words for sure yet, necessary for us to hear and take to heart. Conflict comes because we want our own way. And we are willing to “kill” to get it. One translation says it this way, “You bite and devour” one another to have your own way. James is calling us murderous cannibals when we get into quarrels and fights with one another. Ouch!
But if we keep reading the passage we discover that the only “cure” to this dilemma is for us to submit to God, resist the devil, purify ourselves, repent (grieve, mourn and wail), and humble ourselves before the Lord.
The second thing that will hinder forward movement for us is a misunderstanding of what God is doing here.
[We are] in an identity crisis. We are morphing from one local body into two. We are less localized and becoming more international. Our elders are knee deep in redefining how we are governed and how to be strategic in who we are and how we relate to the world.
Is it possible God is disrupting us with events that feel like earthquake tremors to make us look more like His Son? Is it possible that all our activity is more about keeping ourselves insulated from the feelings that come with being off balance in order to maintain a modicum of safety? (Safety -sticking with forms and systems we know and understand)
Finally, if we do not understand who [this congregation] is and where it is going we will never truly emerge from this transition with a sense of wholeness.
Are we willing to assume responsibility to talk with our leaders one on one and in small groups? Are we willing to put our hands to work thinking hard and praying hard so that we can grow and come to know who we are and what we are about? Each member must begin to take responsibility for the health of [this body]. Without you and me we will never grow up as a body.
These are tough times. In tough times we cannot afford to deviate from the process set out in scripture.
1. Matt. 5:23 – If you realize someone has something against you, go and be reconciled before you continue in your service and sacrifice to the Lord. In Matt. 18:16-17 we are told that if someone sins against us we are to go to them. In both cases, we are responsible to go and set things right. Whether someone has something against us or we have something against them. We go. And in the case of Matthew 5, our worship is less important than making things right with a brother (or sister) in the Lord.
2. Psalm 139:23-24 speaks of regular self-examination. Are we asking God to search our heart and show us any wicked way in us? We know it is there because none of us is sinless. So why do we resist this necessary reflection in our lives? Do we not believe that once sin is recognized and ‘confessed’ there is no forgiveness? I hope not. Frankly, we have nothing to lose here but everything to gain in self-reflection.
3. Romans 12 tells us how to treat one another.
a. We present ourselves to God
b. We think accurately about ourselves
c. We assume ownership of one another
d. We care for one another gently, generously and diligently
e. We honor each other
4. In relationships where there is long time hurt we:
a. Take each other at face value and stop acting as if we can see into each other’s heart.
b. We forgive 70×7
c. We entrust ourselves and the situation into God’s hands
d. And always remember, man may devise his steps but God directs the way.
5. We must walk with each other so that we remain current in our accountability, working things through as they happen. We must also walk with one another to better know each other and avert misunderstandings. And we must pray for one another more passionately.