Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by Rev. John Farmer

Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website

Peace on earth, or church at war!

Note this truism. Satan always wins in any skirmish amongst a family of faith.

All congregations of faith are drawn to one of the most passionate theaters of all. A God-created world watched as that same God killed his only son, to save humankind (us) from our repetitive sinful indiscretions.

Oh, what possibilities: good and bad. Oh, what love, what sorrow, what joy!

Babies were dedicated in Hometown Church. Maturing teens carried off to far shores, college and career, Bibles endorsed by that body of believers. Children, grandchildren and spouses were baptized there. Weddings took place around that altar. Many families brought loved ones there to be memorialized when God called them home. All of which is to say that church is ripe with deep personal emotions. These emotions can heighten into major status when attached to other fractious issues.

When I chaired a part-time ministry studies group of greater Boston theological students we would case-study and roll-play issues to equip the students with getting their degrees and be off to minister to the world.

Repeating conflicts in congregations near and dear have called upon me to posit my voice to an avenue of contemporary discontent. Why not play along with me and let’s work through a case study now of some considerable antiquity?

It seems as if a chap, Brother Blue, was attending Hometown Church in a small village. Early on he really enjoyed it. After attending for a period, he noticed that there were quite a few that felt they owned the church as well as the pastor. One senior veteran of that army of God asked the pastor if, in fact, he was still the member giving the most money to the church?

An elderly Upset family in the church was never happy unless they were running the financial affairs of the organization. When the pastor disagreed with them on an issue, Husband Upset decided to have his tithe designated to a certain category in the budget. He petitioned and later convinced others also to do likewise. The results were predictable. There was not enough left over to pay pastor Brown.

Such behavior, added to other lesser but thoroughly disappointing issues, caused Brother Blue to feel angry every time he attended a service and especially so when participating in a business session. Unable to cope with his frustrations, he finally quit Hometown Church!

He was so wounded by his time there he really hadn’t had the interest or motivation to find a replacement for his family of faith. God’s army was in danger of losing a warrior of determination and merit.

Years ago, I was reminded by a senior pulpit gent that we should never forget that church is a hospital for spiritually sick saints. We all need healing: some more than others. Friends, that is why we have church in the first place: so that God can get on with the forgiveness business so guaranteed by the cross.

Brother Blue felt pastor Brown was a genuine God-loving, Bible-preaching pastor. God had called him to that church. What right did any individual or any family members have in running him off?

Blue called pastor Brown and told him that he read his Bible and prayed daily. He asked if he was wrong for quitting? Was it wrong to be so angry with those people?

Hometown Church has been embroiled in some form of discontent for years. Many pastors have lasted just long enough to find another place of service. That church has not had a pastor for quite a while.

Well, let’s take the story apart. Are you Brother Blue, family Upset, or pastor Brown?

Brother Blue continues to pray for Hometown Church. There are times when his prayers are less than genuine. Honestly, he would love to see some of the people fail.  He knew that this was not a Christian attitude. However, they were wrong. Blue thought God owned the church and folks were to depend on him to lead. He refused to follow any human. Did he belong there? What think ye?

Pastor Brown shared with Brother Blue that if he felt so strongly, then he’d agree to his leaving Hometown Church or going back to be part of the healing. If leaving, he did tell Brother Blue that he should quickly find another place of worship. He also told him not to go anywhere looking at the faults of the flock; rather opportunity to serve Jesus.

Satan can and does use our pride and rebellious natures in an attempt to disrupt God’s work. In Ephesians 4:17-27 we learn that the way to defeat him is not through our anger at what other people have done or not done for that matter. The way to defeat Satan is to seek God’s forgiveness for our personal actions and our personal responses.

Let’s ask the Lord to forgive us, and keep asking until he restores peace in our hearts. Thus victory is ours and his!

Satan needs to lose a few church fights for the sake of Christianity. Ever sing the song “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me?”

How has what Jesus did for us, molded us into the people he needs to populate our houses of faith, our arenas of worship?