Imagine a church where:
- The average age is over 60.
- What is learned in Sunday school or church service is much less important that simply being counted present by God. Ritual Faithfulness means everything.
- Discipleship was important decades ago but it has been set aside.
- Christian Apologetics was never important.
- The pastor is a self-absorbed individual who delivers stream of consciousness messages about his life as a younger man. His ego prohibits him from taking advice even from those who are trying to help him succeed. He refuses to resign because he can’t find another job.
- Sunday attendance has dropped by 50% in two years.
- A great war rages between those families who have traditionally controlled the church and an opposing faction which includes the pastor.
- Since the pastor won’t resign, his opponents have considered trying to bankrupt the church.
- Personnel Committee meetings have ended in shouting and table pounding.
- Two old men nearly came to blows.
- Long time members are leaving the church.
Variations on this hypothetical scenario are not uncommon particularly among Baptist churches where each church is essentially autonomous. They rely on soul competency and the priesthood of believers which makes each member answerable to no one but himself. Many Baptists are proud of this behavior. They say, “That’s how Baptist churches multiply; they fight until they split.” If you find yourself in such a church, don’t let it weaken your faith! Try to stay out of the turmoil and remain in the church as long as possible. But if the strife continues for a year or more, it may be time to depart.
God is angered and dismayed by such churches. Satan has become the dominant power player; the Holy Spirit has departed and is no longer welcome. Compare this to Paul’s description of a Godly church:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:2-6)
God produced unity through the reconciling death of Jesus Christ. It is the heavy responsibility of Christians to keep that unity from being disturbed.
(See also Sections 10.1, 10.3, 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.11 and 10.12 of Theology Corner)