"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Friday, April 6, 2012

Grace in transition

     During childbirth there is a point when things get unsettled and confusing. Momentum stops. There are gaps between the gripping, gasping seasons of pain. There start to be tentative sensations of movement in a new, positive direction.
     It felt that way to me in church two weeks ago. Still the shunning by some. Still the cold fury of the few. But just before the service an executive elder came over to Jerry and me, where we have been sitting alone in the very last row of seats in the social hall, put an arm around each of us and asked, "Have you been told lately that you are loved?"
     We said no. Actually someone else had just come and told us she loved us. By no, we meant, No one from the leadership.
     "Well, you are," he said. And we had a normal conversation together, like we used to have with him, asking after his family.
     At the end of that service, Pastor Lou gave an extended, eloquent assurance to the congregation, as he had in his latest churchwide email, of a new transparency in the leadership, making offers "marked by personal, face-to-face interaction" in order to "become a healthy church that does not allow secret dysfunction" because "it's the secrets that keep us sick."
     That will certainly be a refreshingly new approach on the part of the leadership--one we have urged and striven for. Since November 22 Jerry and I have been exposing these secrets and this dysfunction on this blog and we will be more than happy to let the leadership take over the job of confessing the darkness they have fostered and the hurt they have caused by keeping these secrets. 
     All along, two or three intercessors for Grace have been getting in their spirits the word "disconnect." We've prayed to understand what this means. A disconnect between the leadership of Lou, Carl, Dave, Brian, Jerry, Ted, Kurt and the congregation? Yes, there has certainly been that--at least with half of the congregation. Now that they have made the "deadwood" so uncomfortable and so unwelcome (while announcing frequently "Everyone is welcome!") that most of our generation, battered and bloodied, have sought refuge in other churches, that disconnect is lessened. Almost everyone at Grace now, at the rate of a dozen new members a week, is on the same page.
     A disconnect between the minds of the core leadership and their hearts? Certainly that, too. They show the determination of brown shirts to "do their duty" by cleansing the world of "those who aren't like us." Heads loyal--but to the wrong god. Hearts of stone.
     But also a disconnect between their words and their deeds.
     As Easter approaches, the countdown of our 40 days of prayer, two things are happening--and they seem contradictory. One is that things seem to be genuinely getting better in the church itself, better unity, fellowship, worship. SO much that Grace is doing is good. So much genuinely good service to the community. So much real love, real community based on faith in the real Lord Jesus Christ. The disconnect is not apparent in the services. The hymns are solid, the choice of Bible passages, all about God winning the victory are just what we need. I cling to them. We can't fault the sermons (most of which are not preached by Lou). The sous pastors are preaching truth right out of I Peter. The doctrine is right on.
     At the same time, the deception coming from the handful of men at the very top is getting crueler and subtler. Their lies are more persuasive and reasonable, though no less lies, so that those of us who know better have a hard time not being sucked in ourselves. ". . . to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect." We have to keep bringing what they say and write back to the Lord, laying it out before Him and having Him address each sentence one at a time and show us how false they are:
     ". . . fomented by a small group of people since September 12, 2011." No Lou, fomented deliberately by you. You were more accurate later in your letter when you wrote,"what has been stirring in the background for the past 21 years"--but it is not "the dynamics, beliefs, personalities and ways of responding to leadership" that has caused the chasm. Those members you blame are people faithful to the Bible who kept being sent by God to you to hold you accountable to His truth. Ironically, God seems to be drawing people back to the Bible in spite of you.
     "I am deeply saddened by this whole experience." Crocodile tears. You orchestrated it. You wanted us out. You are not sad in the least that most of us are gone.
     "It's possible for Christians to disagree and still stay together and love each other." Not in this church. You have never permitted it. Try to approach and talk to you "face-to-face?" Members have been attempting that for 21 years. You responded--and had your hachet men respond--with a ferocious "You're causing division in the church!" and then, in many effective, not necessarily verbal ways, "SHUT UP OR GET OUT! - AND DON'T TELL!"
     "I want to stay open to the possibility of reconciliation." Please. The only reconcilation you will allow is silence, the signing of false accusations and forged resignations, and coming into lock-step conformity with your agenda.
     I sense that God is healing the church, bringing it back to its original, God-laid foundation in the midst of, in the face of, the attempted coup. What is amazing is that many of the leaders themselves seem to have gone about their ministries unaware of the dictatorship at the top. They have remained committed to truth--and believe that those at the top have, too.
     It may be some church members will never realize how close we came to losing the church to post-modernism and emergence. There are still a few powerful, mean-spirited individuals with a grip on this church, men who blame all that has happened on us--but God is weakening their power and credibility among their peers and will remove them in His time.

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