Jason Byassee—Family feud: Politics in a small church

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I was struck during that zoning controversy how little I did to keep the church together. The ones really leading were the old ladies—molasses-sweet, blue-haired, Bible-believing old ladies who attended our Wednesday night prayer meeting.

The dispute did hurt our church. Longtime members threatened to leave, or at least resign leadership posts (which they left effectively vacant anyway). People worried openly about a church split. In one administrative board meeting I found myself with one candidate and his spouse and the campaign manager of the other and his spouse. The two men had once been close friends. Their sons still were. They'd known each other since their baptisms. Their parents still talked about how wonderful the other's grandparents were. And their dispute wasn't nearly as nasty or personal as that between their wives. But the two couples were not speaking. How were we to pass a budget together?

The most painful part was that they were all good people who still knew how to get their hands dirty and fix a motor, prepare a casserole and teach a Sunday school lesson, and in their business lives they could balance a million-dollar budget. But they could not, for the life of them (or their pastor), get along.

And precisely there is the small church's glory. You can't avoid the person you hate. You can't wiggle out of the meeting with the person you're not speaking to. And so you have a shot at being Christian.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* TheologyPastoral Theology

2 Comments
Posted April 26, 2010 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Jason, if you read this, that was one of the finest, most moving tributes to the strengths of small churches that I’ve ever seen.  I just loved the fond treatment of those old ladies and their weekly prayer meetin’ as the heart and soul of that little church’s life, and how they were the Rock of Gibraltar during the stormy controversy over rezoning to foster growth in that small town.

FWIW, I particularly like another Methodist’s tribute to the small church, namely the prolific dean of church consultants, Lyle Schaller.  His marvelous The Small Church is Different extols some of the same strengths that you do, Jason.

David Handy+

April 26, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
2. driver8 wrote:

If I think of the real spiritual centers of Anglicanism, the Mothers’ Union is right at the top and it’s a shame it’s not a larger presence within TEC.

April 26, 6:18 pm | [comment link]
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