A few years ago I was a youth intern at a church in North Carolina. It was a great experience, but immensely intimidating. I was getting my first real taste in ministry, and coming to understand just how heavy the weight of ministry can be. For the first time my future looked rather overwhelming to me. During that time I grasped the necessity to develop a united front of fellow believers. I realized the need to help carry the burdens with others in ministry. I knew that what I needed was to have people in my life who called also minister to me.
During that internship we went to a Bible camp for a week. There were other youth groups with their youth pastors there as well. It as a camp full of energy that helped students see that they can worship God fully. Worship did not need to be signing some songs while standing still pretending not to wonder how much time had past. Worship could involve movement, laughter, enjoyment, and even some noise.
One night the youth leaders were meeting with the counselors at the camp after a particularly loud and rousing evening of worship. We reached a point in the evening where we were asked to share our prayer requests with one another, and to encourage each other. During that time I poured my heart out to these older men in ministry. I talked about my fear and struggles. I talked about how intimidating this all was to me. I bared my soul hoping for encouragement and wisdom. What I received was a wave of the hand.
You see, these men were much more interested in expressing their concerns over what they perceived to be a lack of reverence during the worship time. It did not fit into their mold of what worship should look like It was too out there. The counselors anticipated this coming, and gave into the conversation apologizing for the intensity of that evening. The end result was some men who had been to stuck in their personal methods of worship, and one future pastor proclaiming his drowning while witnessing his potential lifeguards bickering about which whistle was the proper one to use.
I hate stupid arguments in church. I hate stupid arguments amongst believers. It is the most time wasteful activity we have, and we excel at it. Why did we suddenly get so enraptured in bickering over issues relating to our comfort one that we fail to reach out to someone who blatantly calls out for help? The truth is that I was pretty angry in that moment. Here were men who were shaping the minds of youth, and there example was one of ignoring the person in need of help in order to debate of the age old debate in church, the volume and movement of worship.
All these years, and this sort of issue still grinds my gears. Why are we so willing to watch people drown in order to spend more time dunking others into the water? Why have we become so enraptured in our pride that we cannot help even people within our own faith? Where exactly are we going wrong?
I’ve thought over this very issue over the years. After that incident I left that camp with one very clear prayer in mind. “Lord. Don’t let me turn into that after years of ministry.” We become way too engrossed in our own agenda. We feel we have things figured out the best, and merely want to enlighten others into our way of thinking. It is teaching the man who is clinging to a cliff how to swim because you believe swimming is a far more vital skill than climbing. We push onto others what we think they need, rather than meeting their current needs.
I was in the hospital for kidney stones once. One of the men working there was a guy named Lamar. I asked Lamar if he enjoyed working there. He went on and on about how much he enjoyed the hospital. I asked him if he got along with his coworkers. “Of course! We have to get along with each other.” I find that response rather odd, and asked him to explain himself. His answer was incredibly profound, “You never know when you will have someone laying on a table in front of you and dying. When that time comes you better be getting along with your coworker standing on the other side of that table. You can’t afford to hate or abandoned those you work with when lives are at stake.”
Aren’t we abut so much more than saving lives? We have an impact on people’s eternal souls. Why then do we waste our time arguing over the petty when our fellow comrades are sinking? How can we ever hope to reach the lost souls when we cannot even encourage a fellow brother or sister who is clearly in need?
So this is my warning for all who will hear. For the old still willing to change, and for the young not yet set in their ways. Don’t let the minor issues overshadow the major issues. Don’t bicker over the volume of music when someone else comes to you with a real life problem. Don’t get so stuck in your preferences and comfort zone that you forget there are bigger things out there. War is hell enough without your brothers on the battlefield abandoning you.