Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hurricane Church

Miss "V" was a worship leader in a vibrant, growing, exciting church. She is a gifted musician, has a beautiful heart and an unwavering love for the lost and hurting. Several months ago Miss "V" found herself in unfamiliar territory. She had an unexplained hole in her heart. She was unfulfilled in her personal relationships and she was in pain. Like so many of us, Miss "V" began looking for ways to fill that hole - a drink now and then with her church friends (yes, her church friends), shopping, selfish pursuits, etc... Nothing was filling the growing abyss in her heart. Finally, she turned to the church leadership and confessed that she was struggling. She asked for help and support. Instead, she was told that there was no room at that church for someone who was "weak" and "confused" - at least not in leadership. And just like that...she was no longer a part of the church family she loved and leaned on.

Okay, I totally get the fact that if you are in church leadership, you (we) should live a life above reproach. But, Miss "V" wasn't living in sin. She hadn't fallen. She hadn't killed anyone. She simply admitted that she was (gasp) human! She wasn't asked to simply leave her leadership role, but she was asked to leave the church all together. Why? We Christians have a tendency to shoot our wounded. When a racehorse breaks his leg, he is no longer able to pull his own weight (both literally and figuratively) and he is put down. I've seen more than a few spiritual racehorses lose their footing and suffer a break. More often then not, we shoot them.

On August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the southern coast of the United States with devastating force. While the initial damage to New Orleans and other cities along the gulf shore were not crushing, the break in the levees and the ensuing floods proved to be catastrophic. The survivors of that deadly storm not only lost their homes, but they lost their neighborhoods. A house can be replaced, but a neighborhood? Counselors will tell you that the emotional recovery from a hurricane can take years and years, because replacing a neighborhood is much more difficult than simply rebuilding a structure. Hurricane survivors lose their grocery store, their pharmacy, and their local sandwich shop. They also lose the neighbors who shared their street for 10 years, or 30 years, or 50 years. When we lose our church, we don't just lose a building! We lose our place of worship, our social group, our volunteer outlet, the neighbors we pray for and wave at each and every week, and sometimes - our job. We lose our whole life! Hurricane Katrina swooped in, did her damage, and swooped out without stopping to help one single victim along her destructive path. Churches do the same thing. Like a hurricane, they cut a big chunk out of someone's life, then never look back to see the death and mayhem left behind. We're talking about lives here, people! Living, breathing, fragile lives!

Miss "V" is still suffering. She's looking for a neighborhood to replace the one she was forced to leave behind. She's still cleaning up the mess left by "Hurricane Church" and she misses her friends and neighbors. Be gentle with her.

We've gotta stop shooting our wounded. I'm not advocating letting sin run amok and without accountability, but we are dealing with real flesh and blood people. Are you, in your fervor to grow a church leadership who is above reproach, roaring like a hurricane? Slow down. Get off the pew and look behind you. Have you swept over someone who needs help getting up? Miss "V" will be a "been there, done that" advocate for God's grace, but only if we love her and welcome her back to the neighborhood!

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