So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. Romans 14:12-13
There's not a pastor or parish which is filled with sweetness and light 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In my almost 30 years in the parish, I remember serious arguments concerning what time we would worship, about whether we would switch hymnals (we did), about what color the church would be painted, about whether we would -- in Minnesota -- bury an individual during January and February (we didn't), and about whether the staff should get a raise (50-50).
I remember some people who truly, truly hated my selection of hymns. Indeed, looking back, I can't think of a single hymn that pleased everyone.
This is just my way of saying that an organization made up of sinners, being taught by a sinner, is going to have problems ... and may occasionally make enemies.
On the plus side, I don't remember anybody disliking us as much as Julie Ann Smith and others dislike Beaverton Grace Bible Church in Beaverton, Ohio. On the World Wide Web, they have said their ex-congregation is "creepy," a "cult," and has a leadership which uses "control tactics" and "spiritual abuse." Apparently, others agree. With 625 reviewers reporting in on Google the congregation has an average rating of "1."
In response, the church has decided that Smith is guilty of slander and defamation. They are suing her for half a million dollars. Now I'm not a gambler, but I'd be willing to guess that things won't settle down at Beaverton Grace Bible Church in the immediate future.
Here's another thing I'm pretty sure of: that congregation is going to have a tough time growing. There are a number of reasons I come to that conclusion:
1. A congregation which is always arguing is focused inward and not witnessing and winning souls for the Savior.
2. A congregation which always argues is taking the energy the Holy Spirit bestows and spends it on the wrong stuff.
3. A congregation which spends a lot of time fighting over non-doctrinal matters has forgotten the Savior's directive and their purpose.
4. Finally, a congregation which always fights usually believes their fighting is ministry.
Understand, I'm not saying the Savior's disciples don't argue. They do, and there are fights which are worth fighting. Still, it behooves us to remember we are the Savior's redeemed brothers and sisters. It is proper for us to recall we allow that which God allows, and we are silent where God is silent; and we take a stand when God takes a stand, and we leave the things that are not commanded or forbidden up to an individual's conscience.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, send Your Holy Spirit to bless and direct both my pastor and parish, help us to set aside the petty and encourage each other while we can. Help us walk together in the joy which is ours in Jesus. In His Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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