As a pastor, I have seen my fair share of unhealthy relationships and unhealthy people (spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, relationally, physically) during my life. One truism that almost always holds: unhealthy relationships can only breed additional unhealthy relationships (i.e., an unhealthy person cannot easily pass 'health' on to another person). The Bible refers to this dynamic as generational sin. What is true of people is also true of churches.
In this day and age, far too many new churches are born out of church fights, splits, disagreements, and general disgruntlement. Unfortunately, these unhealthy births have a tendency to breed unhealthy churches. And unhealthy churches breed more unhealthy churches.
Too often, Christians enter church relationships with the same mindset that the world has towards regular marriages--"If it doesn't work out, we'll just get a divorce." But just as a Christian who desires to honor God enters a marriage relationship with the mindset that divorce is not an option, believers should enter into relationship with one another with a mindset that this relationship cannot be easily walked away from.
Yes, God permits divorce in a regular marriage when there is a gross violation of that covenant relationship (i.e., adultery), but His heart is still on reconciliation. For Christians, our covenant relationship with fellow Christians in a church should be taken seriously as well--short of a gross covenant violation (e.g., heresy), divorce (i.e., walking away) should never be an option kept on the table as a possibility. Rather, God's heart is for reconciliation and restoration.
As we begin this new journey of a post-merger church (i.e., a new marriage), our desire is to live out the hope of a God who can bring restoration and renewal even from the brokenness of the past. Bucking the trend and uniting rather than sub-dividing is something I hope we see more and more of in the Kingdom in the future.
Christians setting aside their differences and opinions. Christians willing to give preference to others over themselves. Christians holding on to heritage and traditions loosely--willing to let go when God moves. Christians stepping out into the unknown because God told them to.
Wow--will that make God smile!
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