Friday, November 11, 2016

Learning to work together

After every election there is always a lot of talk about how we now need to learn how to work together, and there has certainly been a lot of that talk in the past couple of days. Both sides have promised to do just that, but we'll have to wait and see if it happens. Quite frankly, it hasn't happened much in recent years, and I will be somewhat surprised if it happens this time. Of course, there have been lots of surprises in this election cycle so it could happen.

If it does not happen we can expect at least two more years of gridlock with nothing done to help make our nation better. If history is any indication, Democrats in office will block every effort the new President and the Republican Congress tries to make to ensure they are unable to improve things for the nation. Each side will point their fingers at each other in blame for the stalemate, but it is the American people who will suffer. To be fair, the Republicans did this to Obama, and the Democrats will attempt to do so to Trump. Depending on your theological bent, you may approve of such action, but the intention of most who are standing on the brakes of change is not the good of the country but to gain enough votes to be re-elected and to cause others to be defeated in the next election. This is sad, and it is not the way to lead a nation.

The same thing happens in many churches. People come to church from a variety of backgrounds. They have been taught to interpret Scriptures differently. They have competing visions for the church. When a change is proposed that goes against what they have been taught in the past and how they understand Scripture they rise up against it. Each side insists their vision for the church is the correct one. Because they believe they are taking God's side on this matter the conflict can become quite intense at times. Meanwhile, the church sits stuck in the past and condemned to doing the same old things that ceased to work decades ago.

If America is to move forward, those in leadership must find common ground and find ways to work together. If churches are to move forward, they must do the same thing. Instead of pastors and congregations blaming each other for their inability to move forward they need to find a shared vision for ministry and work together to achieve that. Competing visions in a church guarantee that a church will never move forward. Such visions are certain to create conflict and stall any forward progress.

The good news is that I've seen churches that have a history of conflict learn to work together for the good of the Kingdom of God. Each side learned to listen to each other, and often found they really weren't that far apart. They found ways to agree and compromise on workable solutions. Such solutions did not give each side everything they wanted, but they did enable the church to move forward. As that forward progress resulted in success, it became easier to find other areas of ministry in which the church could come together.

This is not always the case, however. Sometimes the division between the two sides is so severe that one side needs to leave the church. If your church shares a vision that is completely contrary to your vision, and you see no way to find common ground, then it's time for you to leave that church and find one whose vision for ministry is more like your own. As painful as that decision may be, it's the right one for both the church and for your own personal spiritual growth. BTW - I once had to make that choice many years ago, and as painful as it was it turned out to be the right decision.

My prayer is that the new President and Congress will be able to come together for the good of the nation. I pray the people of this nation will do so as well. My greatest prayer is that our churches can unite around common vision and find ways to work together to share the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world.

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