Scripture reading: Matthew 18:15-17. Text: “To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”
1 Corinthians 6:7
Unfortunately in several congregations one can find disharmonies, misunderstandings, difference of opinions, tensions, opposing views, and even open arguments. I am not a judge and neither a troubleshooter; rather I am asking you to evaluate this case you find below and offer help.
In most congregations there is a board, church council, session, consistory, or vestry, as well as a president, chairman of the board, supervisor, or a chief-elder. These people together with the clergy are supposed to lead the congregation. Due to our human nature (original sin), conflict of interests, and different personalities and views, harmony and peace are on shaky grounds in some churches. In the first century already there were disagreements in the churches, see Romans 16:17, 2 Corinthians 12:20, and Galatians 5:15.
TROUBLES IN THE CHURCH; HOW THEY STARTED, DEVELOPED, AND HOW THEY ENDED.
- There was a congregation where the pastor served for a long time and could retire.
- The president’s (or chief-elder’s) son studied to become a pastor and was
getting close to be ordained.
- The closer the president’s son was to his ordination, the more the president
criticized and blamed the incumbent pastor. For many it was obvious, the president
wanted to have his son be the new pastor.
- When finally the old pastor resigned after much criticism and aggravation, the
president’s son was ordained and he was invited to be the pastor of his home church.
However, unexpectedly, he accepted a better offer from a bigger congregation.
- Eventually another pastor was elected and “on the surface” seemingly everything
was all right again.
THE UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES AND THE SAD AND SERIOUS COMPLICATIONS.
Several members of the congregation did not forget how the president treated the old and now retired pastor. When his term expired, he was not re-elected. A couple of outspoken members made it clear “WHY he was not re-elected.” The president excused himself with the argument that the old minister has been pastor for a long period and it was time for him to retire and the church needed a new, energetic, and devoted pastor who could revitalize and build up the church. The ex-president said: “I just wanted the best.”(His son.)
In an invisible but definitely realistic way, a split had developed among the members of the church which did not serve as a welcome for a new pastor. On the surface the issue was: was the president right or wrong? Behind the mentioned reason there was the latent challenge, which group was able to get the upper hand? To one group belonged the more generous donors which sided with the president and to the other side the majority of the congregation. The congregation could not afford to lose any members.
Stubbornness set in; bigger and bigger weapons were used by both parties to achieve victory, and the new pastor simply was sent back and forth: “Go and tell them.”
HELP WAS NEEDED BUT WHO COULD OFFER IT AND HOW?
The higher-ups in the church administration said they had never been officially informed about the serious problem in this congregation. Now it is too late for them to do anything; the only thing the leaders could offer was reconciliation.
On one side the church members said they did not want to be whistle-blowers; anyhow not much could be proved as undisclosed intention is insufficient evidence. The other side also felt change was needed.
Now, how would you heal the wounds? What would be the best way toward peace and reconciliation? Will the new pastor become the victim to this internal split and argument? And who will vindicate the old, retired pastor?
I cannot suggest anything else than quote Apostle Paul: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. “ Ephesians 4:1-3.
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