The Warts, Pimples, and Beauty Marks of a Church

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           April 10, 2016

                            

There is free photo editor available for computers called “Picmonkey.” It allows a person to touch up a photograph and make blemishes disappear. In effect, it brings the picture of a person’s face to perfection. It hides the imperfect.

If there was a “Picmonkey” that churches could use to cover up its imperfections it would be used as much as, or more than,  the communion wine! A primitive form of it appears in the newspaper one day each week on the religious services advertisement page. Church slogans and pictures of smiling faces and praying people appear there to convince the reader that spiritual awesomeness is ready to be had at that location.

But the truth of the matter is that every church has at least three things: warts, pimples, and beauty marks. Forms of “Picmonkey” are often used to hide the warts and pimples and accentuate the beauty marks, but, believe me, the blemishes are still there under the make-up.

“Warts” are those things that just are! I’m speaking two Sundays a month at a very small congregation in a small community about forty-five minutes away from the city. Their pastor resigned in a bit of a church dust storm last fall. The congregation is a great group of people in a dated building trying to move forward. One of their warts is the placement of the women’s rest room. It is halfway down the stairway to the basement. Halfway! It is a wart that just is. There aren’t many women’s rest rooms that are halfway down a stairway, but, in this building, it would not easily be relocated, so…it just is!

A lot of church warts are related to the structure the congregation meets in. The church I pastored for many years had a leaky baptistry! Not a good thing for a Baptist church! Whenever we had a baptism we would have to bring in the fans for a few days afterwards to dry out the carpet. For $125 we bought a livestock watering trough that was smaller than the baptistry so it could fit right in the midst of that space. The leaky baptistry is still leaking, but the trough takes care of the problem. It was one of our warts that was humorous in some ways, and frustrating in others.

Every church has its warts. Some are more visible than others. Some warts are the result of gifts given to the congregation years before that have now become part of the congregational facial imprint. Some warts are even people- the person who talks non-stop in a small group, the man who falls asleep every Sunday during the sermon and starts snoring. The warts of a church aren’t necessarily good or bad. They just are! They are like Cindy Crawford’s facial mole. It just is, and now we wouldn’t recognize her without it.

“Pimples” are those tensions in a church that are often under the skin and not readily visible. They aren’t pleasant, and have a tendency to rise to the surface after a while and, forgive me, spew on others. A number of years ago there was a situation where a young unmarried woman in the congregation I was pastoring became pregnant. There was an evident tension between those who did not want to help put on a baby shower for her, and those who wanted to express their love and caring to her as she went through this. Those on one side thought that putting on a baby shower would be condoning pre-marital sex, while those on the other side felt that the young woman needed extra support and encouragement during this time and, after all, the baby was coming! Those who visited our congregation probably weren’t aware of the tensions, but the stakeholders were! Every church has its pimples!

Pimples exist in areas of a church where there are territorial battles, like the organ doesn’t get used any more, but those “cotton-pickin” drums do! Or a pastoral search committee is divided in its support of a potential candidate. Some of the committee see the candidate as a visionary for the future, while others are afraid he/she will change “their” church too much.

Pastors and congregations often become a festering pimple that is in danger of becoming a cluster of blemishes. Like adolescent faces it takes time and effort to slowly let the zits run their course and be healed.

And pimples can arise in the most unexpected places, like what is served at the coffee fellowship time each Sunday? Folger’s (which was good enough for my parents and also for me) or Starbucks (Quality matters!)?

And then there are the beauty marks…the equivalent of cute dimples and stunning eyes! A church’s beauty marks are present regardless of what the board and committee structure is. In fact, the beauty marks usually are present outside of a committee’s decisions. For example, every church has certain people that are the embodiment of Christ. The church is enriched by their presence, not because of the things they do and the ministry positions they fill, but simply because of who they are. They are the unofficial spiritual mentors.

Sometimes a beauty marks is something distinctive about the building. One church I was Associate Pastor of had an incredible stained glass window in the sanctuary that was wondrous to gaze at. The way the light hit it seemed to make it come alive. For me it still is the most awesome stained glass window I’ve ever seen, and people from the city knew about that church’s “beauty mark.”

Every church has its beauty marks!

Warts just are, pimples need attention, and beauty marks cause gratitude.

A church with too many pimples needs to invite in a spiritual dermatologist. A church with a lot of beauty marks should bring attention to them and not take them for granted.

And the warts? Live with them and avoid the temptation to cover them up with “Picmonkey” touch ups!

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Faith, Freedom, Grace, Humor, Jesus, love, Parenting, Pastor, Prayer, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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