Posted tagged ‘surrender’

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!

Jesus In the Trunk

May 30, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 30, 2014

 

                                    

 

      The trunk of my car is used for transporting various things. At the moment I have a dirty sweatshirt crammed to one side, a bag of weed and feed, and a dozen orange cones for use at basketball practice.

At other times it carries our suitcases on the way to the airport, or my golf clubs for any infrequent trips to the golf course. Once in a while when soda pop has been on sale I’ve even filled the trunk with cases of pop. (Since I haven’t had a can of pop for two weeks now that event may very well be a thing of the past!)

Trunks are useful, but they don’t control the car. They are in the back…except for some Volkswagens. They bring up the rear!

Once when I was growing up we had a group of young people go to the Drive-In Movie Theater. Since admission was paid on the basis of “visible” people in the car a couple of teens hid in the trunk until we got to our parking spot. It was dishonest, but we felt it was kind of a “grey dishonesty.” Wrong, but we justified it by how much the theater charged for popcorn.

Riding in the trunk got our friends in, but they also had no say in where we were going to park, and even when we were going to free them from the tomb they were trapped in. When we did let them out…they didn’t go back in!

I think I’m guilty…and possibly most of you who are reading this are guilty…of putting Jesus in the trunk. He’s back there with the car jack- only to be called on in an emergency.

BUT he’s in the car! He’s with us, just not in control of us.

In Luke 18 we read the story of Jesus being engaged in a conversation by a rich ruler. The dialogue focused on the requirements for inheriting eternal life, and after some back and forth discussion the man walked away, as it says in the scripture, “…sad, because he was a man of great wealth.” (Luke 18:23, NIV)

It’s right after that Jesus talked about the difficulty of a rich person entering the kingdom of God. The point, however, was not so much about rich people. The point was that it’s difficult to surrender our agendas, our control, and our lives to the Lord.

Putting Jesus in the trunk allows us to say that he is with us, that “I’m a Christian.” Unfortunately, that name has become so watered down that it doesn’t mean that much. It may not help that much, but I refer to myself as a follower of Jesus because it indicates that he is out in front, not tailing along behind with the suitcases.

Surrender is hard! Stubbornness is easy! Yielding makes us grind our teeth. Dictating keeps things uncomplicated.

Where is Jesus riding in your life? If he’s in the trunk, let him out from under the “weed and feed” and at least sit in the car!