What started out as a small issue in the little Darda church is quickly brewing into a huge storm that could threaten everything.
One man whom we thought would surely be a leader in the church has now turned against us. Of course, this has deeply saddened us, but even worse, he has been going house to house speaking ill of us. We hear that he is trying to recruit people for his own church—and he has only been a follower of Jesus for less than a year. Now, some people have stopped coming to the church.
“I feel like this church will not last,” one of the team members said, as we discussed a course of action. “It is a good thing my faith is not based on feelings.”
Earlier, we had visited one of the families who had stopped coming to the church. The woman look slightly ashamed, polite but not overjoyed to see us as we drank coffee together. She admitted this man had been coming and speaking against us.
At the next house, we ran into the man. He was there with his Bible, teaching the family. I had not seen him for months since he had stopped coming to the church. We greeted him warmly, and at first I was hopeful that perhaps this could be a positive interaction. However, when he was leaving, it took an ugly turn when he yelled out some accusations.
We were all exhausted and hungry in our team meeting, but these are important issues. We looked at different scriptures where Paul had similar situations. Should we address the troublemaker directly by name in the church? Should we keep it ambiguous and preach against gossip? Should we merely ignore the problem and bless him? What is the appropriate Biblical course of action in this cultural context? It’s hard to make decisions when there are no guaranteed outcomes.
“I know how my culture works,” Đeno said. “One person can be like a fly that constantly disrupts and causes big trouble over very small issues.”
Through our conversation, I was struck by something I had been musing on lately. Being a part of the process of this new church is removing many of my presuppositions about how a church actually grows. When we strip away all the bells and whistles, standing only in the nakedness of our humanity….it quickly becomes apparent that there is no earthly way a church can survive in its own strength. In such a moment, I realize how much the Holy Spirit does in a church—how all things are actually held together in Christ and woven together through the Spirit—even if sometimes we like to take more credit then we should because of “good programs” or a “charismatic leader.”
In fact, I can say that every thriving church is a miracle and testimony of the power of God in the face of everything that would conspire against it—our sin, our selfishness and desire for power, the principalities and powers.
We finished our discussion as we always do—in prayer for wisdom, for the people in the villages, for God’s help and direction. I realize I have no idea what will happen, nor any real control. I find, surprisingly, that I am far from hopeless. In fact, I am actually anticipating how and when the Spirit will act. I have a feeling that this is exactly when the story gets even better.