Tom and I sat and our children sat at a bleak midweek service this past week. A faithful pastor and his wife were leaving their church. Rather than leave with the love and goodwill of the whole congregation the pastor and his wife had served and cared for spiritually, they were leaving a war zone. The atmosphere was heavy at the last service. Due to the toxic situation, he was not even allowed to preach his last Sunday as planned. Those who loved and supported the pastor came for the sad good-bye. Tears were shed.
I sat in that service grieving for them and reflecting on the situation and so many like it I have encountered in various churches through the years. There is possibly nothing as ugly on the face of the earth as a church meltdown, split, blow-out, whatever you want to call it. I have seen good men run out of churches a number of times. In fact, one of the early formative church experiences of my life was seeing a pastor and his family vivisected by a warring congregation. I even remember the name and face of one of the chief antagonists, in this case female, who must have had a metaphorical charm bracelet containing the shrunken scalps of all the pastors she had brought down through the years.
The church died shortly thereafter. It’s not a surprise. In fact, it was already dead by the time they sent their pastor away. Any congregation that lives in chronic disobedience to the Word of God, rejects the ministers God sends who are faithful preachers of Holy Scripture, embraces an idol in the place of the living Christ, and is filled with carnality ceases to be a church anyway. Call it whatever you want, it’s not the body of Christ anymore. It’s a temple of doom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is peace. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are spelled out very clearly in Holy Writ. We are not left in the dark about what that fruit looks like. We’re also told clearly what the fruit of the flesh is. These warring churches have the unmistakable reek of embalming fluid. Ichabod is written over the door. The glory of God has departed.
So to all of the servants of Christ left with a thousand cuts to their hearts from betrayal, slander, gossip and malice, to all of those who limp off into the night without the dignity and kindness of a loving good-bye from those they served, to those who are left trying to forgive incomprehensible viciousness from those claiming to belong to Jesus, just a reminder that you aren’t forgotten. God has seen everything. He is leading you elsewhere in a time of great famine and apostasy. He will lead you where there are sheep who want real spiritual food and who want the living water that Christ alone can offer. I pray for the peace of Christ to minister in a special way to all those in the office of the ministry today who love Jesus more than anything the world can offer, including job security, the praise of men, and pleasant surroundings. They understand their true calling. May God bless and help these men and their wives and families in every need.