That pettiness we sometimes see in church leaders

This week, as I write, the Baptist Press website is running five cartoons of ours all on the theme of “Pastor Search Committee humor.” The drawing is basically the same for each, although with a little tweaking on each one. But the people are saying different things in each one. (The suggestions as to what a search committee laughs at were made by a long line of Facebook friends in response to our question.)

“This guy lives in Hawaii. I think we should visit his church.”  “This pastor is unemployed. So we could get him cheap.” “This resume’ is from our former pastor. Wonder if he has gotten smarter.”  “This one’s wife has a job, so he could use her health insurance and save the church money.” “This guy says he’s a lot like our former pastor. Yes, but nothing like our next one!”

That sort of thing.

One of the many comments arriving in response to the cartoons said, “This is why I am no longer a Southern Baptist. I despise this kind of littleness.”

I know the lady only on Facebook (which basically means, hardly at all), but sent her a private note asking, “And what denomination did you find where the human element has been taken out? Every religious group on the planet has to deal with people’s ambitions, their littleness, pettiness, carnal thoughts, competitiveness, etc.”

Two hours later she responded. She has joined a large independent church where she admits she sees none of the kind of infighting and littleness she observed in Baptist churches. She noted that the leaders take care of matters.

I do not know that church and certainly wish them all the best. But anyone with a smattering of knowledge of human nature is under no illusions about that church or any other one.  They all have the same temptations, struggle with the same issues, and work constantly to walk the path of righteousness.

The Catholic church, which appears on the surface to be as hierarchical as it’s possible to get, has to deal with the same pettiness and self-centered ambitions among many of its priests and nuns as do Baptists and others with their ministers and lay leaders.

It’s because we are human.

Furthermore, we did not stop being human the day we came into the church and began following Jesus.

That does not make pettiness right. It just explains what it’s doing here.

Here are five realities for anyone who would join themselves to the people of God to do His work on earth….

1) The people are all flawed.

Just because they are redeemed and are called sons and daughters of God does not mean they’ll always act like it. “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).

2) There will be disagreements.

“We who are in this body do groan….” (Romans 8:23).  Complete unity is always the goal. That kind of perfection is rarely attained.

3) Occasionally, the differences will result in estrangements and some kind of separation.

Paul and Barnabas had a falling out over John Mark (Acts 15:36-41).

4) God will use every one of these situations if we give them to Him.

We ended up with two missionary teams instead of one. Barnabas and John Mark headed to Cyprus while Paul and Silas moved back toward Asia Minor (same text).

5) We are always working to do better, to grow more Christlike, to love more and serve better.

The fact that God can use a schism does not mean we should try to create them. “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

We must not give up on churches that struggle to get this right, so long as they are genuinely working at it.  It’s when the faithful members throw in the towel and give up on trying to do the godly thing that signals the time to move on.

Until then, brethren, let us love one another.

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