Three years ago our church of 10 years, a church we helped to plant and build, split. There was long standing division among the leadership that finally was revealed to the congregation. It was a very hard time and I wrote a rather raw piece as I tried to process my thoughts about it. I’m thankful for some input I received from friends before sharing and below is an edited by time and space version.
His mercies are new every morning, every year, every decade. One day three years ago our church home that we once held so dear shattered into pieces. It was hard to see His mercies. Though not completely undone we were all shaken. Our church of ten years, the one we helped to plant and build fell apart, demonstrating the truth of a fallen world. I find it hard to explain this to people who have not been part of a church before. We spent 10 years thinking that we were living out our Christian faith through this church and that our church was the perfect model of what a church should be. That’s part of the reason it hurt so much when it all came tumbling down. We held it too dear.
We were bewildered at how supposed friends and allies in leadership ended up in such division and misunderstanding. Sweet relationships turned sour because, from our perspective, some held gifting above humility. It seemed some thought there was only one way to lead and teach. I only speak to what’s been revealed to me and what I observed, but what was happening in our church mirrored what was happening in a whole group of churches of which our church was a part of. God was shaking the foundations of what we had thought was the perfect church.
As pastors left and congregants with them many felt betrayed and in the shake out some fell through the cracks. While the church split can’t ultimately be blamed for broken marriages and some falling away from the faith it did play a part. Our former church suffered for months after the initial split. The direct conflict between leaders had gone, but whether the leaders who remained could be trusted was still left to be seen. They were being watched and scrutinized. Mediators, weary and heartbroken by the divide, tried to piece together the conflict to evaluate what was left and what to require from those in authority who needed to be under authority. There was more conflict and some unfortunate sin uncovered that led to a second wave of congregants who left. The church is still meeting though. I have contact with very few there. Hopefully they are rebuilding and are experiencing God’s goodness.
We were among those who left first and we grieved and mourned for many months. But a beautiful thing happened among those who left. For a while we all gathered, online and in person, to air our grievances and hurts. We weren’t left alone to nurse our wounds. We were able to reevaluate together what church is and what it means to live as a Christian. Many found new church homes quickly, some took many months to decide where to attend church and some have decided not to commit to any church, but all have moved on and are finding their way. We still have periodic get-togethers and it’s always fun to meet up again. If it were not for the split I may not have some of these sweet friendships that are richer through our shared sorrow.
Truly God has brought beauty from ashes. Ruins are being rebuilt.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Isaiah 61:4
Thankfully we were not devastated for generations, our struggle was short lived but nonetheless painful. There is still a wariness though, for me anyway, a sifting through a sieve of what I lived for 10 years. Some of what we practiced we now see as unhelpful at least and at worst harmful. I’ve looked at different denominations with new more open and accepting eyes and feel freer to read a broader range of Christian and non Christian “self-help” writings. My faith is richer for it.
My family is part of a small group who decided to start a new church; A church that wants to glorify God and build community. We are very small and have been slow to grow but believe God has us where we are for a reason. We focus on Jesus, loving Him and becoming like Him. He is our model for relationship and life.
This week I’m going to talk about my faith how I came to it and what it looks like in relationship with others in church and out. I speak from experience not formal education and I don’t have time to research every aspect of the faith. I’m not a particularly articulate about a lot of things, but I will speak from my heart.
Wednesday: Meeting Together