1 Corinthians 1:10
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
Dear God, our town is known as a tough place to pastor. And that’s not just one denomination. The churches I know the best—Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, and Presbyterian—all have reputations among clergy as being particularly complicated and difficult. I’ve know more than one, spanning back 30 years, who have said that the church in our town was their most difficult one. I wonder why that it.
One possible common denominator is that a lot of the churched people here fall into two categories: 1.) Those that were born here, baptized here, married here, and will be buried here, and 2.) those who were accomplished in their careers and now are retired here.
For the first group, I think there is probably a strong sense of ownership of the church because they were there way before their respective pastor was and they will be there long after. They buck against outside leadership and lose sight of just being part of your body. The church means something else to them.
For the second group, I think they are used to being in control of things from their professional lives and now they are taking that approach in retirement and putting it into their church life.
I think there might be a third problem. I think there might be a lack of leadership training for clergy. Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty poor leaders try to gain “control” of their churches. This is almost always a foolish approach. They end up majoring in the minors and focusing on the wrong things. As I think about a current pastor who has done a really good job in his known-to-be-difficult church, I think one of his keys to success has been to pint everyone to you and then not sweat the small stuff.
Father, help me to know how to be an instrument of your peace. Make every action I take at church be about lifting you high and exalting Jesus. Help me to not join in the bashing (and forgive me for when I have joined in, because I have) and be a source of love (by all the definitions in 1 Corinthians 13) instead.
In Jesus’s name I pray,