How Foolish And Stupid Arguments Can Kill Your Church
The very first church I served as a youth pastor had once been a thriving, vibrant community of faith. By the time I arrived, however, those days were gone. Arguments over worship styles, the pastor's sermons, elder nominations and a host of other issues had chipped away at membership, and worship attendance was well under a hundred.
An influential, vocal minority had exited some years prior to my tenure, and they didn't leave well. There were no young families in the church by the time I showed up. For a long while, my son Jay, who was not quite three then, was the only child in the nursery.
The story of that church is a story that is similarly told in churches all across America. Petty quarrels, struggles over power, arguments over personal preferences, and even disagreements about denominational issues have devastated so many congregations. Over 4,000 churches will close their doors this year, and the year after that, and perhaps every year following.
I believe it's because we approach our involvement in church like we approach most things in our culture--with a consumer mindset. We want what we want, and if we don't get what we want in the way we want it, it makes our blood boil. We want to speak to the manager. We want money off of the purchase. We write letters to the home office. We demand that our needs be met by any means necessary. And, for many of us, we'll never shop at that store again as long as we live.
In 2 Timothy chapter 2:23, the Apostle Paul exhorts a young pastor to lead his congregation with wisdom, and to "Stay away from foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they grow into quarrels. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone..."
In the book UnChristian, (Gabe Lyons and Dave Kinnaman's groundbreaking study, on why people are giving up on church) one of the many things that people who had given up on church listed in their reasons was the way Christians always seem ready to fight... with anyone and everyone.
There's a difference between being quarrelsome and principled. Unfortunately, most of us Christian-types can't figure out that difference. Someone who is principled doesn't have to quarrel. Their actions, their speech, their demeanor and the way they generally live their lives speak for themselves.
There are lots of things that Christians need to be speaking out against: injustice, exploitation of the poor and helpless, the neglect of widows and orphans, senseless violence and war, to name a few.
But if we don't learn to "stay away from foolish and stupid arguments," we may soon find that the Greatest Story Ever Told is simply echoing around an empty room.
May you discover a new sense of joy at the prospect of a church family free from petty arguments and quarrels. May you live into that hope, doing everything you can to be a catalyst for peace, unity and purity in the Church, and in so doing shine the light of Christ to the world.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.