Glimpses of hope, or How a church vote encouraged my faith

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.

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2 thoughts on “Glimpses of hope, or How a church vote encouraged my faith

  1. Hey, Laura,

    I didn’t read this in detail, but I went through at least two church splits growing up, and we changed churches quite a few times. We were in the non-denomitanional/charasmatic movement. One church Liberty Bible split and became Word of Truth and Living Word Tabernacle/Church, the latter which I went to later as an adult-college. That was around elementary school. Then in Middle School Whitesburg Church of God people left and formed Valley Fellowship. I also remember going to Weatherly Road Christian Center/Assembly of God and Faith Chapel. I also went to Whitesburg Baptist and First Assembly of God around college. The splits were during critical growing up years, so it was really hard. Looking back, I know my parents tried, and at times I see now that I was the one not being cooperative. But it still hurts. Especially when you are raised in church and are brought up believing God and church are everything! I think it is all about God, but I guess not necessarily the way I grew up…….I guess that’s why I was very glad to find Southside at age 26. I guess I went there until age 34ish I guess sometimes we just want a place where we feel we belong!!! 🙂 At least that’s my story!!

    I remember visiting Southwood after my Southside years. It seemed like a nice place. I hope you and your family are doing well! I have started seeing beauty in other denominations than the ones I grew up in–which was mostly charasmatic and Baptist…..I have been enjoying reading the Mitford Series by Jan Karon about the Episcopal Priest Father Tim. I like the illustrations on the book covers, too. They seem very “homey” and I guess at my age bring back memories or growing up. One picture shows moss in the trees, and I have thought of trips to more south Alabama (Selma) in recent years to visit family growing up. I remember moss being in the trees down there. The books take place in NC, I think…………

    I’m babbling now. I also re-read the book Christy if you have ever read it……It takes place in East TN………my mom had the book decades ago, and years ago I bought my own copy….

    I guess with churches, it just matters if people really know the Lord, and I guess I have realized it’s all supposed to be about LOVE!! 🙂 I tend to be more negative, so I’ll concentrate on the HOPE!

    Love and God Bless

    Robyn Asquith Umstead (from Southside B C)

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    1. Robin,
      Church splits are so incredibly painful. For me, it really undermined the feeling of ever being at “home” in a church. I’ve finally found a church home at Southwood (though I recognize that it’s not the church for everyone) and am so thankful to have hope that Christians can actually behave like Christians should: loving!

      I’ve read the first two books in the Mitford series, and Father Tim is a sweetheart (so is Cynthia, his girlfriend-turned-wife); I was particularly struck by the couple where the wife is schizophrenic, and how tenderly her husband cares for her. And, yes, I’ve read Christy, waaaay back when I was in junior high school. I remember feeling so sad for the people living in such poverty, and particularly the one family with the boy who was obviously ‘special needs’ and how Christy is absolutely nauseated at their living conditions. (I would’ve been right there with her, overwhelmed by the smell.) It’s inspiring to me, though, to read about Christy and Father Tim, and see how they live out their faith; even though they are fictional characters, they point me to the real people who live out their faith amidst hardship and difficulty.

      Thanks so much for sharing about your experiences with church splits. I hope you’ve found at least partial healing from those times. Bless you! Laura

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