There I stood, only days into my job, listening to a long-time member of the church tell me how the person who had hired had so wildly mishandled a sensitive issue in the church. Names being thrown around as if we had been present for years and all of the history that they were relaying. So I responded, "Have you talked to Pastor such-and-thus?"
"Oh, NO. They don't listen to anyone." The member responded.
"Has anyone spoken to them?" I pressed further.
"Well... no. But he/she knows how we feel."
How many times is this scenario been repeated in "christian" and "church" culture? Too many to count, too depressing to think about it- this is the daily stuff of church life that eats and tears at our members until we are facing what we face now: an American culture fleeing church and established religious institutions to save their souls. We can call them wrong, try and guilt them back into attendance, and make up wild spiritual accusations about how they've "fallen off the vine" are no longer "in community" but the reality is our acidic culture has driven many into house churches more "organic" and "natural" communities and- to be quite honest- it is hard to fault them. If we were REALLY honest... maybe we are jealous, jealous that they got to leave and we are still here and long-suffering.
From my keyboard I can look to the future and see the already angry responses to this, those taking exception, those who don't want to think of it... or those who never respond but just think about how wrong I am. Which brings me to my real point- which isn't church burn-out- but gossip and dissension.
Two sins that are over-looked, turned a blind eye to, and even couched as "spiritual", "shared prayer requests", or "concerns". It's called sin. It is listed out in Romans 1 next to every hard-line conservative's favorite verse that "condemns" homosexuality. But it's okay because we only condemn those who sin differently than we do (credit to Tom Clegg there).
We have torn down our brothers and sisters in Christ, within our homes, within our small groups, and within the structure we so mistakenly call "church". We have lied, exaggerated, involved those who ought not be, shared private information, told of conjectures, and defamed character based on personal thoughts and experiences. We. Not you. Me too.
I am not here to cast stones. I am here to confess and to invite you- if you will- to do so with me. That the Pharisees have judged the younger brothers, the rebels the Pharisees, the weaker brothers judged older, the older judged the younger, and we were all wrong. From the top down, from denominations, to districts, to groups, to local churches, to committees, and personal relationships the sins of gossip and dissension have torn us apart. For my part, I am sorry, I want to live at peace, to build community, to build hope, to live in love.
So, if you must, continue as you were. But what I saw yesterday, in the midst of students, families, friends, and a community I do know this: NOTHING will happen until you stop, confess, repent, and reconcile.
Truly, I want this to be a dialogue. If we need to meet up, if you need to email me, if you need to comment on this then do it. This has gone on too long.