Last night I witnessed the death of grace in a church, the church I and my family have attended for the past 7 years.
The setting was a congregational meeting with the sole purpose of determining whether or not the pastor of the church had the confidence of her members to remain as pastor. The church had become fractured with some members seeking to move forward in a new vision. A vision that sought to reach out to people in the community with love, mercy and grace. This coalition of believers held to the message that God wants us to love all people and extend that love in new and innovative ways. They were not compromising the Word, they were embracing it. They had come to realize that being a Bible believing church meant more than just solid exegetical teaching, it meant living it out in love.
The other faction looked as if it clinging to what they believed was the pure Word of God, and holiness, and being separate. It seemed to appear that they did not have time nor care for things like mercy and grace, fellowship or unity. Their focused had the appearance of single-minded determination to save the church, from a liberal slide they perceived as a threat to their ideology of tradition, and rigidity.
The pastor, in spite of much conversation and prayer and intervention, seemed to align with the latter side. This occurred even though most of the leadership team he headed stood in the former camp.
Thus the meeting.
It looked as if some politicking may have been going on behind the scenes as person after person spoke in glowing terms of the pastor’s herculean ability to juggle the word of God with passion and conviction. But no one on either side was contesting his Biblical preaching ability. What was contested was his ability to trust the leadership in the church without intervening and thwarting a persons ministry. What was also contested was his inability to shepard the flock out of a heart of grace and mercy, and his unwillingness to accept new ways of outreach.
In the end, fundamentalism won. Those unaware of the back story will remain ignorantly unaware. Those with the perceived agenda to take the church back to the days of striving for self-induced holiness, and self-inflicted purity without an understanding of the importance of Jesus and the cross and grace and mercy and forgiveness that leads to greater holiness and purity, have prevailed.
What is lost is freedom in Christ, and the joy in knowing that, even if you screw up God is there, telling you He is not angry with you as He picks you up and puts you back on the path.
That is what is lost, so for today I weep for those left behind, that will suffer under the heavy thumb of the pharisees.
The lamp has gone out, and grace has died.