Posted tagged ‘disagreement’

When Christians, and Their Churches, Disagree

March 2, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        March 2, 2019

 

In my 36 years of shepherding flocks (“Pastor” comes from the Latin for Shepherd), I guided congregations through a few briar patches of heated discussions and thorny issues. Sometimes my style fit and sometimes it didn’t. When I was president of the Mason School Board back in Michigan, since again, my style fit and, although we had a few disagreements too work through, we always managed to come through the discussions with a high respect for one another.

As a pastor I remember differences that we had about renovating the sanctuary. Two different churches I pastored over the years had the wood paneling on the sanctuary walls…you know, the paneling that showed up in the basements of homes back in the 50’s and 60’s! Each was gradually brought along to seeing that a change would not offend Jesus…but it took time. We considered switching out pews for chairs in one of the congregations, but one person protested vehemently. Her concern was for one of the senior saints of the congregation, that he might fall over in his chair and hurt himself. We disagreed with her, but did not force the issue. The saint, who lived to the age of 91 was loved by all and anything that might harm him (though we doubted that a chair would increase the chances of injury) became a point that we longer wanted to debate. 

Churches are hot beds for conflict and disagreement. When people are passionate about an issue or situation…and there is passion on both sides…the depth, or lack thereof, in Christian community becomes evident. In that respect the church mirrors the world instead of becoming different from the world. 

Let’s be honest! Too often the church is simply a commercial for the world instead of a repository of the love and grace of God. What I said to a 7th grader student a couple of weeks ago, who was trying to minimize the amount of classwork she had been asked to do, I could also say to a  number of church folk. “So what you’re saying is this is you.” I made an imaginary dot in front of me, and then drew an imaginary large circle around it. “And this is the world, and the world revolves around you. Is that what you’re saying?”

Our churches are dotted every service with people who have that mindset!

True confession: I’ve been that “dot” a few times myself!

Words like “surrender”, “sacrifice”, “servant” echo through the Bible. “Sacrifice” appears 54 times in the New Testament and “servant” gets mentioned 157 times. They are words we say in our liturgies and write in the church covenant, but often get pushed to the side when things are going against our opinion. Sides then get chosen and sometimes all holy hell breaks loose! 

In recent times a few churches have resembled more hell than holiness. Prominent church pastors have gone to war with some of the leaders of their churches. When the pastor of a mega-church gets relieved of his duties it rarely ends well for anyone. When denominations have doctrinal disagreements or differences over contemporary issues, unfortunately, it rarely ends in a good way. The battles make for good news in our drama-addicted culture, but after the heated fog lifts there always seems to be a lot of wounded people laying around. 

Of course, even Jesus couldn’t bring his disciples to 100% agreement! But after he rose from the grave, and the Holy Spirit was poured out, his remaining eleven were able to unite to the point that they changed the world!

All things are possible!

The Ability to Listen…Online!

June 27, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 27, 2015

                                     

Social media is awesome in so many ways! We can reconnect with people who we haven’t seen or heard from in years. We can see pictures of folk we’ve grown up with…and be able to see how old they look compared to us…compare the amount of gray, if you will, and the size of our waistlines!

And what can be awesome can also be awful! I’ve been amazed at the things that are said online that people wouldn’t dream of saying in person. There’s like an openness to be condescending since Herbie isn’t in the room with me!

People are much more bold online. Or maybe bold isn’t the right word! Maybe it’s more like “boldly insensitive!”

I find that the ability to listen online is an unrecognized but gracious gift. The patience to hold off on giving my two cents worth is invaluable! Some may say that if I hold off then the insensitively bold will dictate the pace of the race.

It seems like Proverbs has a few nuggets of listening gold that need to sink in a little bit.

“The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” (Proverbs 10:14)

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 29:11) 

People are quick to speak online and slow to listen. In the Letter of James in the New Testament he emphasizes the reverse of those two…being quick to listen and slow to speak. He adds a third…”being slow to become angry.”

So before you send that comment that dehumanizes the person you differ with…take your fingers off the keyboard for a few moments and watch a Youtube video of babies laughing or cats playing with dogs. It may be the wise thing to do in a world that is often immensely unwise and unkind.

  

Christian Chat Rooms

June 17, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          June 17, 2013

I’m not a Chatty Cathy when it comes to talking to people on-line. It just seems a little too weird.  Of course, a lot of things seem weird to me. Reality TV is an experience in weirdness. Having a pet snake is weird to me. $150 a pair sneakers are weird. Having to pay more for airport parking as a result of a flight being delayed is weird…and a rip-off. Painting your face the colors of the team you’re cheering on is weird.

But that’s just me! My wife thinks I’m weird because I used to listen to my Pepsi after pouring it into a glass. I rarely drink Pepsi anymore so it’s a weird trait that I’ve been cured of. I sleep with my own personal blanket. I agree, that’s weird, but keep your hands off!

Recently I got linked up with a type of “chat room” for obnoxious Christians. It’s one of those on-line groups where you can comment on a theological question like “Will there be dogs in heaven…and will they still poop?”

Questions that are being asked by the masses.

I didn’t know I was getting into a group of cantankerous Christians. LinkedIn had suggested it to me. Now I’m not sure if they suggested it because I was judged as being cantankerous or because I’m listed as a pastor…or, it just occurred to me, I’m a cantankerous Baptist pastor.

Whatever the reason the contributors of this on-line group go at one another! A person’s salvation is often questioned. There are suggestions of having an on-line fight with a person’s “virtual dukes.” It gets nasty. People put certain words in capital letters to emphasize that they are more Christ-like. Today someone commented how amazed he was that so many people in the group reject what the word of God PLAINLY says!

A recent topic was “Do I have to baptized to go to heaven?” For every capitalized “NO” there was a capitalized in bold print “YES!!!!” People threw scripture around like it’s a battering ram.

It’s an experience in a lack of on-line hospitality.

Last week’s question on “Once saved, always saved” was more heated than my hot tub. The one before that on women’s ordination had more emotion than the Presidential debates.

If the Council of Jerusalem had been like this they never would have debated Gentiles being a part of the faith. There would have been blood on the debate floor before they ever got to that point.

And the thing is everyone in this group is a follower of Jesus. It just seems that some believe they are following more closely than others…like they are touching the fringe of Jesus’ cloak while others are following at a distance because THEY PLAINLY HAVE FALLEN ASTRAY!!!

I haven’t supplied a comment or opinion to any of the questions yet. I’ve got to let my self-confidence rise a little bit more before I do that. Otherwise I may get torn to shreds and have to be saved and baptized again THE RIGHT WAY!

Bottom line: I’m amazed at how Christians treat one another. I have always believed that we are to hate the sin and love the sinner, but this group have gone to the next level: Hate the sin and really hate the one who disagrees with you!