I’ve been a Christian for a long time. For most of that time I’ve also been a baptist. Growing up in the church, I quickly learned that there are two ways for Christians to do things.
The baptist way and the Spirit way.
Sometimes the baptist way and the Spirit way are the same thing. I like to think that they are the same a lot of times. But when the differences pop up, and you can be sure that they will, they are obvious. I should know. I’ve gotten pretty good at trying to do things both ways depending on which one works best for me at the moment.
A few years back another leader in our church approached me with a concerned look on his face. He told me that a lady who attended our church semi-regularly was not happy with me. But she wasn’t keeping her anger to herself. She was going all over town and telling people that I was the kind of guy that kicked puppy dogs, left the lid off of the toothpaste and talked during movies.
I knew just how to fix this problem. I’d handle it the baptist way. That meant that I would do nothing and let her continue telling everyone in town about how much of a rat I am. While that was happening I would secretly hold on to feelings of resentment towards her. That should take care of that problem.
I’m sure that baptists don’t have the market cornered on this kind of thing. Certainly the methodists and non-denominational types do the same thing. I can tell that just by looking at the churches in my area.
Could it be that some of the churches that aren’t meeting anymore didn’t shut down because they failed to change with the times? Could it be that problems were allowed to fester until people and pastors just got mad and left?
Or what about the stretches of highway in my county where you can’t drive more than 50 feet without passing another church? Is Shady Cross Baptist Church and New Shady Cross Baptist Church a result of a move of the Spirit or just a move of angry people?
I was feeling pretty good about taking care of my problem the baptist way. Until the same guy came up to me again and let me know that the lady was still talking bad about me. This time it was that I cut in front of old ladies at the Golden Corral, throw dirty diapers in the river and have distant ties to Kim Jong Un.
I knew that the baptist way wouldn’t work. It wasn’t worth potentially destroying the church that I pastor. It wasn’t worth hanging on to my own hostility and allowing whatever issues she was dealing with to go unchecked.
I had to do this the Spirit way.
That meant that I had to confront this woman (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 2:11-14).
When I called her she sounded so pleasant. When I brought up her grievance and asked how things could be made right again, she didn’t sound so pleasant.
I’d like to say that we had our CBS After School Special moment and resolved everything. That didn’t happen. I haven’t seen her since that phone call.
But there was something else that didn’t happen either. And I think that it has a lot to do with our conversation that evening.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV)
The devil lost an opportunity. When I finally moved towards this difficult situation instead of ignoring it, my anger went away. Anger that could have reared it’s ugly head in other areas of my ministry or even my family life. Gone.
Most of us don’t like conflict. We prefer the baptist way. But if we are a people who are truly living around the cross we will address sin. We will refuse to give the devil an opportunity.
When people visit the church that I pastor they always say the same things. First, they want to know if I’m the guy that starred in Braveheart. Once that gets cleared up they always say how they sense a spirit of unity among our people.
It takes a lot of prayer and hard work for a church to be unified.
But it can be quickly lost.
All the devil needs is an opportunity.