A Columbian came to faith in Christ through reading the Bible and soon after his conversion immigrated to America. Here he began searching for a church where he could grow in his newfound faith but became confused by the number of churches from which to choose. Finally he settled on a test for choosing the church he would make his own. He would know he had found the right church, he said, when he sensed the kind of love between the members that he had read about in the Bible.
This believing immigrant’s test for finding the right church may not satisfy everyone, but I am challenged every time I remember his keen perception of the climate of love among those early believers following the resurrection. A return to that kind of affection for one another would bring new life to any congregation.
Still, experience has taught me that there are people who could attend such an awakened, loving church and not be content. These problem conscious people are continually on a search for a perfect church no matter how close to their ideal the church they attend may be. If you are one of these temple tourists, you will someday have to face the fact that there are neither perfect churches nor perfect pastors.
Some who are moderately content with their church specialize in finding faults in church leadership. They seem to feel it their calling to keep pastors moving from church to church.
While speaking at a conference in a church near Chicago, I was approached by a young couple who shocked me by saying, “We’d like to have a spiritual awakening in our church but we’re afraid if we do the pastor will be encouraged and stay. We’re hoping he’ll leave.”
How will this kind of attitude hold up in judgment?
Not well, I suspect.
A.B. Simpson, the respected author and founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, wrote: “I would rather play with forked lightning, or take in my hands live wires with their fiery current, than to speak a reckless word against any servant of Christ, or idly repeat the slanderous darts which thousands of Christians are hurling at others to the hurt of their own souls.”
A major news magazine once referred to the seeming necessity of pastors moving to other churches every few years as the game of musical pulpits.
Thankfully, there are exceptions.
Some churches are filled with loving people who carry on dynamic ministries in their own communities. There you find fierce loyalties to the church, the pastor and to one another. Negativism is almost non-existent. Members know their church isn’t perfect but forgiveness flows freely among them. They have changed their focus from faults to forgiveness and discovered the secret of lasting joy: trusting God and loving people.
Stop searching for a perfect church and give yourself to making yours the caring, loving congregation it ought to be. This simple formula will increase the effectiveness of your imperfect pastor and you’ll not find yourself hoping he’ll go away.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.