I’ve seen my share of church fights. I’ve even been the subject of one or two.
I didn’t witness it first hand, but family legend has it that my Aunt Ouida and Mizz Eva Robertson nearly got in a wrestling match over the color of the carpet when my home church built a new building (my bet would have been on Aunt Ouida).
When I was ten, I remember sitting through a church business meeting when one of my parent’s friends made a motion of “No-confidence” in the pastor. At ten, I thought he said, “The pastor has no car sense.” He probably didn’t; but the motion failed.
When I went to college I was introduced to the whole idea of church splits. In rural Alabama, every time someone got mad, they went down the road a piece and started another church. They usually named it: “Unity.”
I am not making this up: in one Alabama community, there was Old New Hope Baptist Church, New New Hope Baptist Church, New Hope Baptist Church #1, and New Hope Baptist Church #2. All were splits off the original New Hope. I wonder what was so important that they kept splitting?
I recently read about a pastor who was hit in the jaw during a church business meeting. Thankfully, that’s never happened to me, although I’ve had to duck a few verbal swipes.
When you get to bottom of it, most church fights are about two things: prestige and power. Someone wants recognition and feels hurt if they don’t get it. Hurt people are like hurt dogs; they don’t just bark; they bite.
There are always folks in church that want power. They are used to being in charge at work, so they want to be in charge at church. More than once I’ve known men who were henpecked at home to throw their weight around at church. I guess they needed to feel powerful in some area of life and it wasn’t going to be at home.
I imagine Jesus gets tired of his people fighting for prestige and power. I imagine Jesus would say to his church, “Look, all the glory goes to the Father. What part of that do you not get? And why are you so intent on power in my church? You do remember it’s my church, right? I’m the one who gets to make decisions, not you.” Maybe Jesus does speak that bluntly, but people who pursue prestige and power don’t listen to his voice.
Jesus, through his servant Paul, actually makes it clear believers need to fight. Paul told his protégé Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith.”
What’s the good fight of faith? The good fight of faith is to fight for what is right, not expedient. The good fight of faith is to fight for everyone to be loved. The good fight of faith is to fight for everyone to discover God’s way of life and live it. The good fight of faith is to fight for a world that lives by values of humility, justice, and servanthood.
These fights, Paul said, cause you to take hold of eternal life. In other words, fighting these fights gives you a life that matters.
I wonder if churches fight over prestige and power because they forgot they were supposed to fight a good fight of faith. It’s easier, I suppose to fight over the color of the carpet, than to fight for the way of Jesus.
Still, wouldn’t be great to see a church fight break out over how to love each other like Jesus loved us? I’d go to a church business meeting to see that fight. Wouldn’t you?
Maybe that’s why so many churches are half empty on Sunday: nobody wants to see another fight over prestige and power. If you want to see that, just tune into CNN or Fox News.
Maybe every seat in church would be filled if we fought the good fight of faith – loving each other like Jesus loves us.