As Larry and I celebrate 52 years in this life together, it feels like we've seen it all; and yet, God is always on the move and showing us new things! I wanted to share Larry's message from our newsletter as we celebrate holidays and prepare for the next year of ministry:
Beware! Terrorists in the Pew!
Have you ever had to call one of those uncomfortable family conferences where you had to air some feelings, either with your mate or your children? You didn't want to address it, but you knew if you didn't address the issue, things could spin out of control causing fractured relationships and/or irreparable damage.
Well, that is the burden of Gloria's and my heart. In state after state, church after church, we have seen irrevocable damage being done to the church family with little or no reconciliation or confrontation. We have heard stories from many pastors and members describing scenarios that reflect the church as a breeding ground for bitterness, anger, meanness, fighting, division and certainly not representing the Leader, Jesus Christ, well. Christians, we need to awaken and see where the devil is using our flesh and selfishness to cause discord among the brethren. Proverbs 6:19 states that "discord among the brethren" is one of the seven things God hates. The church is supposed to have the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) evident in their lives as to be a reflection of Jesus Christ.
One man gleefully grinned and said, "I was the one who split the church years ago!" Appalled, the new pastor said, "Why and what over?" The man responded, "Oh, it was over the placement of the piano on the platform." The pastor quizzed, "Well, just where did you want the piano?" He looked puzzled and hollered to his wife, "Ruth, where was it we wanted the piano?" She couldn't remember. Sadly, this is a true story. How tragic! Because of a personal preference of where the church piano should sit, this gentleman gathered his forces, fought the issue, and split the church. God, help us!
In the past 20 plus years on the road, we would say 80 percent of the churches we have ministered in, from all types of denominations, have split over differences whether it be over types of worship, the media ministry, the décor style of the church, the incorporation of new ideas for outreach, who is on the worship team, who is on the leadership team and this list is just the tip of the iceberg. We are not saying that there are not issues that need to be addressed but how we go about it is absolutely critical. So many times, in the course of these disagreements, they turn into fighting, misunderstandings, assumptions and people become wounded, discouraged, embittered and calloused. To ease their pain or to build their ego, others are recruited to "take a side" and before one knows it, another church is starting across town.
WHY IS IT THAT CHRISTIANS OFTEN CAUSE THE WOUND INSTEAD OF OFFERING THE BANDAID? We cry, "Why isn't our church growing?" or "Why are our people leaving?" We need to STOP and take a STEP BACK. Who wants to visit a home where the people fight all the time and the very atmosphere is thick with dissension? It is the same with the church. People are very perceptive. There is enough of this behavior taking place in the world all around them. When they also see "mature" Christians participating in the same manner, they say, "If they are supposed to be Christians and they act like that…or if that is the joy of serving Christ…I don't want any part of it." We have to know that our actions not only affect us but are leaving ripples that spread beyond our little sphere. We don't need church dividers; we need church menders. We need Christians who will shut the mouth of the lions, not feed them. We need to see the harm the "terrorists in the pews" are doing to the name and work of God with clarity and determine that we will not participate. In all honesty, if all the time, words and energy that goes into tearing one another down, airing our rightful opinions, and chasing our rights would instead be put into reading God's Word, praying for ourselves and others and "fishing" for souls, we would see a greater harvest of souls coming to Christ!
I once heard the statement that the CHURCH THAT DOESN'T FISH…FIGHTS! And I believe it to be true. If the church isn't reaching out and bringing in the lost to be saved, they become dissatisfied and inward focused eventually causing disharmony. The end result–wounded, hurting, embittered brothers and sisters in Christ.
Luke 17:1 says, "It is impossible but that offenses will come, but woe unto him, through whom they come!" Those were words straight from the mouth of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Friend…pastor…parishioner…if we cause a Christian brother or sister to stumble through pain, hurt and discouragement…woe to us. We will be held accountable.
Lord, please open our eyes and rend our hearts that we may BE PEOPLE that reflect YOU in all situations and treat others how you would have us do so. Forgive us for the times we have said things with arrogance and selfish ambition rather than out of kindness, compassion and forgiveness. May we be a restorer of broken walls that the lost would see the Church as a beacon of hope, restoration and truth rather than a fragmented lost cause.
Larry & Gloria
Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies
1 ½ c. flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 c. instant oats
1 c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
Sift flour, soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside. Cream shortening and sugars, add eggs and beat. Add flour mixture and oats. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.