Friday, December 16, 2005

The Train Wreck and Nobody Wins

The past year or so in the life of our church has been really difficult. This is something that is hard for me to write about, as over the course of the past months, I have lost good friends, felt like I can't worship in peace and joy on Sunday, and felt anger in my soul that made me think I would burst a vessel. Our family even needed to take a six month "vacation" from our church and worship elsewhere. All of this over a deep and painful split in the church, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.

Kind, good, gentle and genuinely loving people have been deeply hurt, accusations of all sorts have been made, there has been shouting and booing at congregational meetings, angry public pronouncements have been made, and finally and sadly, two senior-most pastors have resigned.

Recently, a friend emailed me to let me know that Hugh Hewitt had a link on his website with the title "now that's a train wreck" and linking to a bitter resignation letter on the web, posted by a member. It has been a train wreck. Completely. Blood on the tracks, people screaming, blame being made, lives hurt, jobs lost, lives seemingly wrecked.

Clearly, nobody won. Nobody. And most sadly, the cause of Christ lost. We blew it. All of us.

The church has been hurt, and she appears silly, petty, and irrelevant in the eyes of a watching world, a world that already mistrusts much of organized religion.

Perhaps in the next several posts, I can talk a bit about my view of what has transpired, outline places where mistakes were made, and perhaps point to ways that we can all behave more like grown-ups in the future. People growing-up in Christ.

When I started this post yesterday, my initial thought was to "get even" with the negative tone of the Hewitt link to the "train wreck" post. But after a long conversation with my wife and a dear close friend (who, as it happens is in seminary seeking ordination in the Presbyterian church), my heart and mind have been changed.

Here is what I want. I want our church to be healed. I want our church to be whole. I want it to be a place that will draw people to the person of Christ - because He is really all that matters. All. Everything. I don't want to win anything. I don't want to have the corner on truth and justice. I want Christ to be honored, proclaimed, and lived out. Lived out in ways that are real and transformational. And my prayer, as I type, is that I would not hinder this by anything I might say.

What should a church, our church look like? What is the ideal? I have to quote the words of my good friend, Tod Bolsinger, who said recently:

"I believe that the goal of every church must be to so grow in Christ, so mature in faithfulness, so increase in love and wisdom and justice and peace that if any person was to ask you what you think heaven will be like you could someday actually say, "Do you want to know what heaven is like? Come and see. Come to my church and hang out with my friends and see the way we live, worship and serve together. Come and see."

And so, with each word I might write in the next post or so, may the words of my laptop, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.

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