When asked what the toughest seat to fill in an orchestra was, Leonard Bernstein answered, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm, that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”
While I’m sure Bernstein said this with his usual candor, the implications are huge. I could not imagine playing compliment to a part in a piece while consumed with jealousy my counterpart. I would constantly attempt to overshadow, outplay, and upstage the other, and while attempting to validate my own worth, I would destroy the performance and the work itself.
We see this disease running rampant in our churches today. I live in a town with more churches per capita than any other city in the world. (I’m still not sure what per capita means, but I’ve read the fact, and it is sound.) When someone gets offended that leadership in a church does not do everything the way they would have liked, they leave and start a new church.
So now we have Rome, Georgia, where if you swing a stick, throw a cat, or a rock or however the saying goes, you can’t help but hit five churches with it. Each church defines itself by what it is NOT, in comparison to the church it left.
Instead of a few, vibrant, thriving, diverse faith communities, we have LITERALLY HUNDREDS of churches scattered about, each throwing verbal stones at the others and filled with would-be chiefs on the verge of rebellion because they aren’t in the driver’s seat.
When we stop and think of possible people who have the right to step into the church and say, “Stop everything. We are doing this MY way,” the list is pretty short. But God, in His divine forbearance, has entered into our broken system and is attempting to work good from it.
In 1 Samuel we see Israel begging God for a fancy king like all the surrounding nations have. God, hurt because He thought His kingship would be enough, reluctantly grants their wish, and Saul is anointed. Despite the fact that Saul was not obedient on many occasions, and that the kingship placed Israel in danger many times, God still decided to work through it at the request of His people.
Throughout their wanderings, the Israelites discovered God’s presence was not tied to any one land, but was with them wherever they went. Still, they ask to build God a temple to hold His presence, because all the other gods had nice temples to live in. God puts conditions down for His box and allows the temple to be built, and even though He was present with them in every land, He allows His presence be confined in a fancy building.
God repeatedly enters into Israel’s life, right where they are. We get a mental picture of a frantic mother following a child who is running around randomly, wherever it pleases him. All the while, the mother is removing obstacles, sharp objects, and other hazards from the his path while simultaneously advising a better course of action. The advice goes unheeded, and the mother relegates herself to damage control, attempting to work good from the chaos.
Even while we have our church hopping wars and leadership struggles, God is still moving in our broken system: turning hearts back to Him and making followers out of a stiff-necked, rebellious people.
Have any of you been hurt by church wars? How have leadership struggles inside a church hurt your family and friends? How can we better cultivate a spirit of gentleness in response to differing views among our church members and leadership?