One of my worst (& best) experiences as a minister came in my first pastorate. Long story short, the church had a major decision to make (I’ll say more Sunday so I’m going to keep the “what it was about” to myself for now.) I had gone through the process I thought best- I had prayed hard about it, sought counsel, presented it to the leaders, & brought it before the church. We took a month to consider the issue & pray about it. I had no inkling from any church member that some were opposed to the issue. (And we’re talking about some oustspoken people here & they never said one negative word.) I went into the business meeting that month thinking that it was going to pass with no problem, boy was I wrong. Not that there was any bickering about it. We did a secret ballot vote, & when all was said & done- the measure had FAILED by ONE vote!
I was devastated. I couldn’t believe it. The decision seemed like such a no-brainer to me. Everything was laid out so nicely (in my mind) & I was blown away that it didn’t pass. But the failure of the vote was not the worst thing about it to me.
The worst part to me was that we had a church that was split pretty much right down the middle on a major decision that would affect the church (for good or for bad) for years to come- maybe even decades. I felt no release to leave the church. I had only been there for a year. This was my first pastorate & my first major church issue. I sought the Lord hard & decided to stick it out. It seemed clear to me that no matter what the final decision came to be, the church had to be together on the decision. So I went through the process again. I tried to take a more “hands-on” approach. I prayed more. I sought more counsel. I talked with more leaders & members in the church. We had “town-hall” meetings where we could talk about it openly & honestly. We set another date to vote again & we put a 3/4 majority vote on the issue. The measure would have to pass or fail by at least a 3/4 majority vote to put it to rest. We tried it again.
And wouldn’t you know it- the vote passed by a 3/4 majority ON THE DOT!
Earlier I said this was one of the the worst ministry experiences I ever had, & that was because of the split vote. But it was also one of the best ministry experiences I ever had because I learned so much about people & leadership & how to work through church divisions.
10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
“Come Together” is another sermon in our Church-Builders series in 1 Corinthians, & it may be one of the most important messages we will ever hear as a church. We’ve made many important decisions in the last three years since I’ve been here, & I mean major ones like re-organization & relocation. We will have many more important decisions to make together in the future, so we ought to make sure that we know why we need to come together.
So please make this your pray before Sunday- Ask the Lord to make us into the church He wants us to be by giving us a spirit of unity as we rally around the name of Christ & the preaching of His Cross.
As you are praying to that end, you can think through the play list of songs for Sunday’s worship service:
Build a Bridge (2094212)
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (31779)
Mighty to Save (4591728)
The Wonderful Cross (3148435)
Offering- by the Praise Team
RESPONSE: All Who Are Thirsty (2489542)
I hope you have a good rest of the week & I look forward to worshiping together this Sunday.
The song numbers correspond to Song Select by Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI).