A Hurting Church

ME GBS Koinonia (2)By Teena Myers

Goggle churches and you will find Baptist, Baptist, Baptist etc. Was it the website listing the churches or is there an overabundance of Baptist churches in the city? As I debated which Baptist church would be my next first time guest experience, I saw a familiar name that was not a Baptist Church. My brother, his wife, and most of her family came to Christ in this church in the 1970s.

I was familiar with some of the church’s history since that time. In the 1980s they moved to a better location and built a large beautiful sanctuary on a road I often travel. In time a small school sprung up. The founder of the church died. His son replaced him. One day, I drove by and noted the church had burned down. I later learned it had been hit by lightning. Between that and hurricane Katrina, most of the congregation must have moved on. The large sanctuary never reappeared.

Technically, I have visited the church, but it’s been close to forty years since my last visit. The decades of absence surely qualified me as a first time guest again. Their website was current. A good sign they still met. I assumed in the school.

The following Sunday, I walked toward the school, which clearly was not a school anymore. The neatly kept gardens were fed by two ten foot fountains of gently flowing water. I paused to drink in the peaceful atmosphere. Two men stood at the door greeting those who enter minus the usual bulletin. I looked for a bulletin on the tables in the brightly lit foyer. Nada.

Entering the sanctuary was a descent into darkness. Blue lights illuminated the stage. The rest of the sanctuary reminded me of a restaurant that was so dark I could barely see what I was eating. I looked at my phone for the time. The advertised service time was 11 a.m. A little after 11 a.m. the band and a small choir gathered to pray.

Why is it so difficult to start a service on time?

The musicians disbanded to their appropriate places on the stage. The band played softly as the high tech announcements scrolled across the video screen. The next forty-five minutes, the band played, and the keyboard player rambled. Don’t like the drummer. Too bad. He had spent a lot of time with the drummer. He knew what apparently no one else did. The drummer is a “good guy.” Music too loud. Too bad. “If the church don’t float your boat…”

“Find another boat,” someone in the congregation finished as the keyboard player smiled and nodded in agreement.

The keyboard player’s comments revealed that the pastor had been absent for some time, and he was holding the ship together. People wanted to know what would happen when the pastor returned. He made it clear that he is the keyboard player. Nothing more. He had the pastors back.

His next comment was not so commendable. The pastor had given his life for the church and no one would take his place. Furthermore, if anyone had a problem with the way things were being run, the problem is in them, not in the leadership of the church.

Had he forgotten that Jesus gave his life for the church, and no one will take his place, including the pastor of a church?

He finally pulled a dark glass pulpit on wheels to the center of the stage and the musicians sat down. Another thirty minutes of rambling, with a lot of “the Bible says” without offering a scripture reference. Finally, Philippians 3:10 flashed on the screen, followed by a mini sermon on how we don’t try hard enough to know God.

I know something the Bible says.

For the lips of the priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble…” (Malachi 2:7-8, NIV)

A priest and perhaps a keyboard player cannot preserve nor impart what he or she does not possess. The message was full of self-justification and condemnation.

Clearly, I had walked into a hurting church that a spiritually immature man was doing his best to hold together until the pastor returned. I have been in so many of these kinds of churches, I am weary of attending church, but remain because the Bible says not to forsake assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).

God never completely abandons his people. He may forsake them for a season, but he does not forget them. He always comes back, and so do I.

 

 

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