How is Christianity perceived by a world concerned about such things as world peace and ending world hunger, when the church is preoccupied with things like whether or not we should read the lyrics to our songs from a hymn book or off of a screen hanging on the sanctuary wall? Is our spirituality not shriveled in the eyes of the world when they see us arguing over which translation of the Bible to read? In this day of splitting atoms, are we not seen as silly over splitting hairs?
The story is told of a small church whose pastor always wore a hat. An observant deacon noticed that the church had nowhere for the pastor’s hat to be hung. Thus, he put a peg in the foyer wall. Afterward, some other men in the congregation became offended. Why shouldn’t they also have pegs to hang their hats on? In the end, the church split over the issue. Till this day, the first thing all visitors to churches in that vicinity are asked is: “Are you peg or anti-peg?”
In forty years of ministry, I can scarcely remember a church conflict fought over anything of eternal consequence. It always seems to be over something insignificant and inconsequential, never over anything that really matters. As a result, it drains our witness of its potency and leaves us looking colorless in our community. Why would anyone want to come to such a drab place where the people have become persnickety over mere trivialities?
That the church has shrunk in the eyes of contemporary culture is undeniable. However, the reasons for its diminishing stature is debatable. In that debate, one cannot disregard the church’s shrinkage into spiritual nitpicking. Although we may not want to admit it, our voice has certainly been diminished by the fact that we often use it in such a spiritually dumb downed fashion. Rather than raising our voices to call men to Christ, we often raise them in church conflicts over the most mundane things.
When I surrendered to God’s call to preach the Gospel, my pastor told me something I have never forgotten. He said, “Son, you’re now entering into the business of life!” It was not just this temporal life of which he spoke, but also of the eternal life to come. I’ve never been able to get away from those haunting words.
Today, men’s immortal souls hang in the balance. We, the church, have been entrusted with the Gospel message, which is man’s only hope of salvation. Time is running out on a lost and dying world. Consequently, we have no time for trivialities!