Because of having to attend to some personal matters, I’ve gotten a little behind on blog postings the last couple of weeks. In preparation for Cassidy UMC’s Vacation Bible School, scheduled for June 17-21, I’m currently in a three-part sermon series exploring some stories about the Apostle Paul. These stories are the basis of our VBS program, “Athens: Paul’s Dangerous Journey to Share the Truth.”
On May 26, we began the series with Acts 15:36-16:5, which is essentially a story of conflict. I recently ran across a study indicating that if people in my area are thinking about leaving church, they most likely feel this way because they’re frustrated by conflict within the church.
It’s important for us to understand that the Bible doesn’t promise us lack of conflict, even among people who share a common belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In fact, God can work through such conflict to do an astonishing amount of good. Note the pattern in these stories; there was conflict, and yet “the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.”
The church may be divided from time to time, but the God we worship, the source of our strength and our effectiveness, remains perfect and whole.
You’ll never find a church free of conflict. What’s important is how disputes are handled. In particular, we need to keep in mind Jesus’ communications model in Matthew 18:15-20. I’ve written and preached on this subject before.
On June 2, we looked at an extended passage, Acts 16:16-40. All that context was necessary to understand the importance of one internal verse, Acts 16:25: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
Paul and Silas had been beaten badly, bleeding and likely suffering some broken bones. As Roman citizens, they could have been protesting their treatment and demanding their rights on the spot. Instead, they witnessed, and others were listening.
Paul and Silas were at their best when the situation was at its worst. They were exhibiting a trait I’ve seen quite often in the people of Cassidy UMC. When the situation is truly distressing, Cassidy as a group rises up to meet the problem head on, bearing Christian love.
We also, however, heard a little about how we tend to falter when the situation is calm and all seems well. It’s as if we lose our focus.
I have no doubt that if we at Cassidy can learn to always be the people we are in a crisis, we will be a force in our community.
I’m really looking forward to this Sunday, when we look at Acts 17:16-34. In the marketplace of ideas, Christians do offer the finest fruit.