Recently, a man was found alone on a deserted island. He made his home there for over a decade. When rescuers inquired about his life of solitude, he was eager to show them how he managed life alone on the island. As they toured the island with this modern day Robinson Crusoe they noticed three, fairly elaborate, thatched huts. Curious, they asked him why there were three huts. The man explained, “Well, one is my home. It isn’t much, but I made it feel like home. The second hut is my church. I am deeply religious. I worship there every Sunday. The third hut, well, that is my old church. We started having trouble there so I had to leave.”
Even in a church of one there are problems. Why is this? Because churches are full of people, and people are full of problems. Essentially, you have a bunch of broken people gathering together to worship, learn, and grow as Christians. In some ways, it is like one giant support group.
Yet, when you take a bunch of people and put them together, sometimes they have trouble getting along. It is interesting, because when you read the Pauline Epistles often you see Paul addressing specific problems and conflicts within various churches. Churches had struggles and problems two thousand years ago and this remains true today. The more things change the more they stay the same, as the saying goes.
Often, people are tempted to think it is their church that has problems. So the simple solution is to go find another church. The truth is, all churches have problems, some more than others (and I am happy to be part of one that stays low on the dramameter).
Sometimes, there are serious problems in churches. There are also certain congregations that reach a level of toxicity where it is wise to leave. Here I am speaking of scandals, heresies, and people that have lost entirely the vision of Christ. Most church problems, however, are usually the result of petty squabbles.
So what makes it difficult for people in churches to get along at times? Why do silly problems arise? There are diverse reasons, I am sure we could come up with a list as long as the phone book of why people can’t get along at times, but let’s look at a few of the common reasons people don’t get along in churches.
- Turf wars. “This is my ministry and not yours!” As silly as this is, I have seen it happen. Isn’t the idea of ministry for as many people to get involved as possible? I understand that every ministry needs a leader. I get that, but so often people want to be a lone wolf and resist help from others. Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together. What say you?
- Mind reading. Communication problems plague everyone. The people you worship with on a weekly basis cannot read your mind. If there is a problem then talk to someone. If you want to see something done differently then let someone know. Don’t expect anyone else to read your mind.
- Differences of opinion. It would be great if everyone agreed on everything in a church body, but it just doesn’t always happen. Just because the majority does not hold your opinion is no reason to get upset. Instead of pouting that you didn’t get your way, put on your big boy underwear and support the decision.
- Gossip. When will we learn that talking about other people ranks near the top of dumb things to do? What situation has ever been fixed by gossiping? When has the world ever become a better place by talking about someone behind their back? When did someone come to know Jesus through the gossip chain? Hmmm? So don’t do it!
- Assuming the worst. Sometimes Christian BROTHERS and SISTERS choose to assume the worst about one another instead of believing the best. Let me get this straight. Your friend, whom you refer to as brother or sister, which you have known for years, does something, and you don’t know why or for what purpose, so you are going to ASSUME the worst? Really? Why not believe the best and see what happens?
- Hurt feelings. Sure, sometimes we get our feelings hurt. I don’t like it, no one ever enjoys it, but it is a part of life. Sometimes, we are going to get our feelings hurt. Sometimes we get left out on accident. At times, people forget to call and check on us. Does this mean we should hole up and isolate ourselves from the people that care most about us?
- Money matters. We all give our tithes (or at least, we should all give our tithes). The thing is, when you give money to God that money is no longer yours. So, what the entire church decides to do with the money is what matters. We might disagree from time to time, but let’s be team players.
There is no perfect church. There never will be this side of eternity. So we have to find a place where the atmosphere is loving, the truth is taught, and a vision is promoted. A place where we can use our talents and worship. A place where the Gospel is taught, lived out, and spread outside its doors. If the essentials are there, we have to be willing to overlook the small stuff and stick with it.
Church is a lot like marriage. There are hot and cold seasons. Some times are happier than others. There are times were you want out. Just like marriage, you have to be willing to stick with it. If you leave one church, due to some minor problems, I can promise you there will be a whole new set waiting for you at the next one.
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – I Corinthians 1:10
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.