One of the things that concerns me as I observe the church is the fragile nature of the word unity. It does not take much to divide a congregation, eliminate the effectiveness of the pastor and stunt the growth or the influence within the community. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research conducted a study of more than 14,000 U.S. congregations that noted 51 percent of them have had a serious conflict in the previous three years. The study also indicated that lingering conflict was associated with declining vitality and membership.
Until we make unity one of our highest priorities as pastors and people, we will continue to send a negative signal to the watching world. They will avoid us.
Several years ago, Stan Toler and I wrote The Minister's Little Devotional Book. In it, we told the story of a church that was having great success. They were performing miracles and great numbers of people were turning to the Lord. Then problems surfaced. The church treasurer ran off with the money. The leaders in the congregation kept upsetting one person or another. One of the associates always acted impulsively and immaturely. Finally, the situation became so unbearable that many of the faithful moved to another city to worship. Sound familiar? It was the first church — comprised of the people who had most recently been with Jesus!
Someone once said, "Tying two cats' tails together does not necessarily constitute unity." So what does? Please consider the following as you seek to unify your congregation and maintain peace within your fellowship:
I talk with pastors and their staff members regularly and find that far too often their mind-set is about winning — having their own way regardless of the consequences. That mind-set leads only to bitterness, separation and destruction. It is high time that the world see us practice what we preach.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.