Mark it down. September 23, 2012. It’s the day that I left a church business conference in a good mood.
The church had big issues in front of us. The proposal was to make major upgrades in the sound system of our chapel, which we are using for worship right now. The sound system dates back before the Moon Landing, and has become almost unusable. The proposal also included the installation of video and wireless capabilities.
All of us were nervous about making a wise decision with the money available. Some wanted us to spend the money in the sanctuary instead of the chapel, and they had good reasons for their thoughts. So this was a major decision on a lot of levels.
Where would we worship? How would we worship? Where would we invest the money that God has provided for us to use? How would we use those funds? And, most importantly, would we go about everything in a Christ-centered way?
I had those stomach-churning knots that I’ve had before plenty of other church conferences. I wasn’t worried about what the decision would be, because I had already divested myself of the issue. Whatever the church decision, I was prepared to show up every Sunday ready to preach and lead worship to the best of my physical and spiritual ability.
But I was nervous about how people would react. We have the most loving, caring church that I can imagine, but people sometimes do strange things when money is involved. And I was afraid that we might do the one thing that would stall us more than anything else:
Churches have a way of dealing with tough issues by avoiding them. We tend to “table” questions that involve large sums of money or that cause tension and difficulty. And believe me, the tension was obvious as soon as worship ended and the conference began. There was no sense of anger, but plenty of tension.
And then, as usual, the people of Augusta Heights came through with flying colors. I wish that all churches I have attended would do the same. I hope that all churches can learn from this.
I hate to use the word “proud,” so I won’t. Let me rephrase: I was honored to be counted as a part of Augusta Heights on Sunday. Here’s why:
1. Everyone spoke their piece: Too many times, people “clam up” during the meeting. Then they talk in the “meeting after the meeting” about what happened. I’m not naive enough to believe that no phone calls were made on Sunday night or Monday. But there was a strong sense that people spoke their minds IN FRONT OF their fellow church members rather than talking behind their backs. And that is something that many Christians need to learn (read the book of James).
2. People Spoke in the Proper Spirit: People were direct and to the point, but they were also polite and Christ-like. That’s a hard balance to find, and people did it with grace on Sunday.
3. People conceded to the general feelings of the larger Body: After the meeting, I spoke with someone who was not in favor of the motion. I asked why this person did not make a counter-motion, if they felt strongly about their position. The response: “It was obvious that most people wanted this, and I didn’t see the need to create an issue if that was the feeling of the church.” That takes some spiritual maturity to put aside one’s own desires in favor of the greater good.
4. No one threatened to “Take Their Ball and Go Home”: Christians are notorious for getting mad and leaving when they don’t get their way, particularly in church. Didn’t see any of that.
In fact, it was the opposite. One older gentleman who had asked some questions was walking out past me. I said, “I hope that you didn’t feel cut off or offended by this.” With his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, he looked at me and said, “Yes, I’m offended and I’m never coming back!” He then said, “We don’t do that here.”
5. We disagreed, and left friends: This is not to say that everyone is happy or that they suddenly agree. But was acting ugly or pitching a fit on the way out. The love of the people for one another was still obvious, and that’s our most important asset to maintain.
That’s why I loved yesterday. Good worship, good people, and the ability to disagree without forgetting that Christ is still in control. That’s what makes a healthy church, and that’s what allows us to move forward instead of “tabling” the tough decisions.
I hope we don’t have any meetings like this for a while. But when we do have another one, my stomach won’t be in nearly as many knots.