“The Pastor is not reading from the proper original Bible.” That was the phone conversation last year as a purist member of the church demanded that I make sure the King James Version was brought back. I tried to explain that we don’t actually have the original Bible but I think I made it worse.
I have heard many things as a Pastor.
“Pastor tell the worship leader to put her shoes back on.”
“Pastor tell the worship leader to stop bringing a water bottle onto the stage.”
“Pastor the drums are too loud.”
“Pastor someone’s sat in my chair.”
I was just closing out a sermon series and I wanted to let my members study further the topic. So I called in at the Christian bookshop and got a pile of books on the subject on sale or return. The layout of the church meant that the rule was never to put anything of value in the entrance as opportunists would sneak in and take what was left there during the service. So that was not the place to display the books. Behind the stage where the pulpit stood there were 2 doors on either side which led to the toilets. I could have displayed them there but that would mean the books would only be seen if you went to the toilet. I did have regular toilet visitors but not enough to encourage the sale of the books! The only place to put them was in the ‘sanctuary’.
“Pastor, we are leaving the Church after all these years unless you remove the books from the sanctuary. You are selling in the sanctuary.”
I asked them if they would stay if I put the books in the entrance. They said yes. The entrance wasn’t the sanctuary. I asked them if they would stay if I put the books near the toilets. They said yes. The toilet area wasn’t the sanctuary (debatable I know!) I tried to explain my reasoning. Sadly those 2 members left my church because of holiness which had nothing to do with holiness. They hadn’t grasped the sanctuary domain is the whole world.
The verses we are reading in Paul’s letter to a divided Church in Rome are perhaps laughable to us. We don’t fall out over food do we? Perhaps not but the Church suffers for the sake of other stupid things.
“I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean … Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” (Romans 14 v 14, 20)
Paul is saying that we must not simply act oblivious of someone else’s conscience. Causing someone to stumble is not causing them to be offended at what you are doing but it is getting them or tempting them to do what their conscience says for them they must not do. The Church that enables everyone to be at ease with their own journey of God, to go at their pace and in alignment with how the Holy Spirit is leading them is the Church that will not be destroyed.
Remember Peter and his ‘conversion’ regarding unclean food.
Acts 11:8 – “Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”
Peter was so careful.
He didn’t take into his body anything that was impure or unclean.
He didn’t drink or eat the wrong things that Jews would never take in.
He had a feeling of purity and cleanliness. He felt good about himself.
But then God broke into his life and he saw that he must not call anything unclean that has come from the divine presence.
For the sake of the protection from worldliness (which most church arguments are all about) do not destroy what God is doing.
Maybe the Pastor could refer to the KJV to help those who love it.
Maybe the worship leader could put some flat shoes on instead of her stilettoes that are uncomfortable.
Maybe we can ask the worship leader to drink from the water bottle in more appropriate times of the worship, perhaps after the song is over rather than guzzling during the song.
Maybe we can buy earmuffs for those who think the drums are too loud (something I actually did!)
Maybe we can guide the person to see that the growth of the church means we might have to let our seats go.
To my purists who left the church. I apologised to them. I said over all these years when I chose songs like, ‘This is holy ground, we’re standing on holy ground’ I recognise now that I failed you as a Pastor. You actually believed that the space where we hold our services was holy ground but the entrance, the toilet area, anywhere outside this space was not the sanctuary. I created a sacred/secular divide in you that now your conscience cannot shift from. I didn’t teach you that though I love the song about holy ground I wasn’t singing only about this space but wherever we are. Please forgive me. The books are staying where they are but I bless you as you leave.
We are going to get this wrong time and again but the battle is not with each other over the purity of the Church but it is over not letting the Church be destroyed for the sake of food, or other important/non-important things.