Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Church Wars

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church. ~Bridget Willard

As I was just settling into my new role in leading the praise and worship portion of our church service, something was happening that our District Superintendent (DS) had to know about but did not tell us. One of the other Nazarene churches had purchased a property, but found out afterward because of all the regulations that they could not build there so, without anyone whispering even a hint to us, they purchased another building with twelve acres just four miles from our church. This had to be sanctioned by the DS and it is not logical to allow another church to be so close when the average distance between the Nazarene churches in our state is around 60 miles, in large cities closer but not as close as this; it is not logical unless there is purpose.

My husband found out about new location when he drove past it last night. It is on a major roadway, one I use every Thursday on my errands so I would have seen it on Thursday myself. My husband was quite angry and most likely so will be most all the members of our church because he emailed them immediately with pictures of their temporary sign. Their website confirmed that they had their first service there last Sunday.

This is just one more time that our DS has kept secrets and we were surprised...unpleasantly. First, some history that a couple of our members experienced, but I did not. Years ago there was a small church meeting in a store front in a nearby town. They were struggling much like we are now, but they did not own any property and they had a pastor, which is so different than our situation. So, as it was told to me, the DS had declared it a "church in crisis" and gave them so much time to find a property to purchase. They did not meet that deadline, so one Sunday they were told that the church was officially closing down after that service.

We have a bit of a different situation as we are not renting. We have property on which we owe more than its current value, a common problem in this economy here. The DS could close us taking what is left of our building fund and possessions, but it would not be able to sell the property as nothing is selling here so the district would be strapped with that mortgage. We have believed that our debt is actually protecting us from the DS closing us down without warning, but it is still a fear that some of the members have.

The second major secret was that he advised our last pastor not to share with us that he was struggling with depression. The pastor told us all this as he was resigning. Then the DS did not show up for a special board meeting, our last one, which he scheduled in the afternoon. He was quite ill with a stomach flu but no one called to tell us he had to cancel. His secretary's mother had passed away that week so she was not in the office the last part of the week...okay, but really, someone should have called us. Before that the DS has not supported our church in many ways, like in providing names of available pastors when we were looking for one two years ago. Although Nazarene and the Nazarenes have ordained women as pastors from the very beginning, he seemed to have something against women pastors in general, which did not help out the first two pastors of our church both being women.

The irony is the church, now so close to us, was the church that help start ours over a decade ago. It was told to me that at the last conference the youth pastor and his wife had been rather vocal about having our church merge back into theirs, but at that time, it was located too far away for most of our members. Now that is not the case.

While I understood why my husband was dealing with his anger, I was trying to see God's purpose in the situation. Is this an opportunity? Yes, it is! But, in which direction?

If I was from the outside looking into this situation, I probably would say the best thing to do would be to merge. Our children could be involved with other children. We would not have to try to find a pastor who would be bi-vocational. Our finances would be a lesser issue. We would have a property that is cleared and can be used for so many things, while our current property is a mosquito breeding ground in the extreme and we seem to be their dinner.

As I see it, we have three main options:

  • Stay the course as if the other church has no influence on us--except now we might be more motivated to change our name!
  • Merge with the other church.
  • Abandon our church and let the district just have it, while we start an independent church.

Two of these options wipe out the fear-of-closing-us-down factor, which weighs so heavily on the members at times. Two of them results in us continuing to struggle. Two of them seem to be the harder to swallow, but result in a fresher start. Each of these pairings are different. Then there are some variations: We could abandon our church, let the district deal with it, and join the other church individually...I have my doubts that would be pleasing to my Lord though. This is where our Christian values are put to the test the most, not outside the church but within it. Did I ever mention how much I dislike the organized church in general? Mostly it comes down to how everyone will feel. I am hoping that those feelings are based on God's leading and not fear or anger or bad feelings or even logic--just on God's leading.

We have a board meeting this Saturday in the afternoon. It usually is in the morning but it is the first day of bow hunting for deer and two of the board members, my husband being one, had plans to be in the trees for that morning. (I would like to say they begged shamelessly but they simply looked as if they were two men making a decision we would not like and one member easily caves to the bribe of deer jerky.) With this news, I am sure they would not have missed this board meeting. I imagine it is going to be a lively discussion.

~ My Lord, please let us see the single opportunity You provided for us. Let us see it clearly and in agreement. Let us welcome it. Let us embrace it. Let us run with it. Let it be our purpose and our joy. ~


  1. Hello, I just found your blog. I to have only one child whom I homeschool.
    I have been homeschooling our son since he was 4 .
    He will be 16 in December...
    Nice to meet you..



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