Friday, June 18, 2010

Turf Wars

“The church is like an old girlfriend. I have a lot of good memories and I wave as I pass by her house, but I’ll never be in a relationship with her again.”

I ran into an old friend last night and that’s how he describes the church he attended for 30 years, but left some time back.

What is it about a church that stirs such high emotions? I mean it’s just a building, for heaven’s sake! It’s four walls and a roof. But when people leave a church—for whatever reason—coming back is nearly impossible.

The people inside the building become a gang and the church property is their turf. When you leave and go to another church, you break the gang code and an all out turf war ensues. It all looks like a scene from the musical Westside Story.

The Eastside Baptist Jets battle the Southside Baptist Sharks for membership, musicians, and AWANA numbers. Gang members—uh…I mean, church attendees—sometimes sneak over to enemy territory to do a bit of undercover snooping.

You can almost hear the Westside Story score swell up as the sleuth slips past the barricade—uh…door greeter—and takes his seat in the back pew. Get cool, boy. Stay loose, boy. Come back with answers, boy.

What kinda programs are they offering? Do they ascribe to the big class Bible-study philosophy, or are they a small-group kinda church? Do they have a choir or a praise band? And the bulletin…is the artwork on the cover traditional or avant-garde? Do they put the lyrics to songs up on the big screen, or do they use hymnals?

A friend of mine was edged out of the church she’d grown up in. A couple of years later she decided to attend the Women’s Retreat that was sponsored by her former church. The women’s ministries director called her and told her it might not be a good idea for my friend to go to the retreat. It might be, she said, “a distraction”.

They were suspicious as to why my friend wanted to come back to the old neighborhood. Turf wars.

My friend went to the retreat anyway. Guess what, not a single fight broke out! In fact, God did a healing work during that weekend.

Come on people, “the church” is supposed to be “one body”. The building is just that—a building!

So, are you the old girlfriend, or are you the shunned lover? Do you know someone who no longer feels welcome inside the four walls that house your congregation? Get off the pew, break down the walls and barriers, and call off the gang fight! Say no to turf wars. Get off the pew!

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