This past Sunday, my church elected a new senior pastor. Amazingly (or maybe not so amazingly, given how the congregation has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic over the candidate-turned-pastor), the vote was almost unanimous. Prior to this, the elders unanimously approved the candidate upon the unanimous recommendation of the search committee.
I’m excited, and not only because my church has a senior pastor after eighteen months of diligent work by the search committee. It’s the unified response of the members that delights me.
Unity: the quality of being one in spirit, sentiment, purpose, etc.; harmony; agreement; concord; uniformity.
I’ve been in evangelical churches since I was born (and prior to birth, if you count attending church in utero). I can say in all honesty that not every church is of one mind on certain issues, and sometimes the divisions and conflicts escalate into nastiness…hatefulness…bitterness. The logical end result? A church split.
It’s a tragedy. A church is supposed to be a living, breathing picture of Christ, the embodiment of his love for other people. When divisions arise and are not effectively dealt with, something beautiful dies. Faith, love and peace become doubt, hatred and dissonance.
I’ve watched this happen in two churches that I dearly loved. It shook my trust, not only in the people I had admired and respected, but in my faith. At one point in college, I almost walked away from Christianity altogether. I loved God, but how could he really claim to be life-changing when I saw so few lives changed? If the Holy Spirit really lived inside the professing Christians around me, then why did I not see evidence of his power in their lives?
It devastated me, and I wondered if there was any hope of restoration.
Fortunately, God is bigger than my doubts…bigger than the broken-hearted sitting in the church pews…bigger than death itself.
I see evidence of this here and there, glimpses of hope peeking out from beneath the rubble of our broken world:
- A church vote that’s practically unanimous.
- People willing to tutor children, repair damaged houses, supply food and clothing to those who have none.
- Couples adopting a special needs child.
- Kids giving money during Vacation Bible school for a well to be built beside a Peruvian orphanage.
- Older women teaching younger women how to love their husbands, older men showing younger men how to lead their families with love.
- And people who open their lives—their messy, grungy, decidedly unsaintly lives—so that others might know that they are not alone.
A church vote reminded me of how unity is possible, healing is available, and death is not the end, but a chance for resurrection.
There is always hope.