Welcome to another installment of The Ekklesia in Southern Maine’s How-To Guide to navigating the complicated world of Christianity. Today’s tips are on the subject of promoting unity in your local church.
When you pastor a church it will inevitably happen that you are harassed by dissenting and divisive people that want to rip your little church apart. Just use this handy Troubleshooting guide and before you know it order will be restored and all will be able to bask in the glorious light of unity.
1. I have several people coming up to me after my sermons asking questions.
So you have people questioning your delivery of God’s Holy Word? Well this can be extremely dangerous and destructive to unity. If they are questioning you now, soon they will outright disagree with you and where there is disagreement there cannot be unity. The good news is that most normal people don’t think to question their pastor or his sermons so most likely someone is telling them to question you. You have to find that person and remove them from the congregation. That person is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and is only there to destroy the unity of your church by causing people to question the authority of your sermons, and by extension, the Bible. Finding this person shouldn’t be too hard if you catch on early enough. As soon as people start asking you questions, even if those questions seem harmless, you should find out who told them to ask you. Early on people may have built up the nerve to question you but they are still, at least partially, submissive to your authority so they will most likely feel compelled to answer you truthfully.
2. I have noticed people not attending Wednesday services and Friday youth group.
It is important that your flock come to as many age and gender appropriate gatherings as possible in your church. The more time they spend with you and your leadership staff the more likely they are to see the truthfulness of your church’s position and adopt it as their own, thus promoting unity among the congregation. If you notice they are not coming as often as they could/should they may just need a little encouragement. Newer members may not understand why it is so vital to be at all the services so explain to them gently how good it will be for them and their family, explain the great things the church has to offer when they come to these services/events like games for the kids or nursery during Mommy Quilting Hour. If the person/family has been around for awhile and still isn’t coming to extra services explain to them that the more services they go to the closer to Jesus they will grow and the more maturity in the faith they will demonstrate.
3. I think some people are going to other churches during the week.
If you pastor a small church you may not be able to have events and services seven days a week. Sometimes that may lead people to attend meetings at other churches on these days. This can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS for the unity of your church. Now one of your flock is out in the dangerous wild being tricked by some other “pastor” to believe things that go against the stated beliefs of your local church. The best way to avoid this very dangerous pitfall is to make sure you are offering something every night of the week. This may be hard on you and your family but it is the best way to keep your people from going somewhere else and getting confused with other ideas and bringing them back like leaven to spread through your whole church. You may be able to get the other leaders in your church to bail on their families a couple extra nights a week and help you. Their families, and yours, should understand when you ask them if they feel comfortable coming between you and the ministry God has called you to.
4. Somebody new just showed up and WANTS to GET INVOLVED.
A new person can be a huge help or a huge danger to maintaining unity in your church. They can be a help because you can always use more people to help promote the beliefs of the church, but they can be a danger because you don’t know where they came from and they may not be as quick to follow and submit to your God-given authority. When they approach you to ask about helping out, the most important thing to do is test their loyalty. Put them on bathroom cleaning or bulletin folding duty for a while and see how they do. If they respond well and do what you’ve asked you can move them up to nursery. The beauty of the nursery is that the stuff they talk about won’t matter because babies don’t understand anything anyway. Listen in while they teach the little ones and make sure that it all falls in line. After a trial period in nursery they should be ready to move on to important tasks like running the sound board, playing acoustic guitar, or collecting the offering.
5. A change needs to be made.
Whether this change has to do with building maintenance or possibly introducing a new song to Sunday morning service, change can, and is likely to, bring utter disaster to the unity of your church. People don’t agree so once you hit a place where everyone is content, or at least quiet about their disagreements, you don’t want to move a muscle. Unfortunately sometimes you have to. When you have to make changes be prepared for things to get ugly. The most important thing to remember when change hits: damage control. You won’t make everyone happy so there is no point in trying. Just try to keep the casualties to a minimum. During times of stability note who is more willing to go along with changes. If you have to go against someone, go against them. They are the most likely to take it without causing a fuss. Also, find out what the majority opinion is. The more people you satisfy, the more people will be left after the storm. Lastly, find out where the high-rollers are casting their lots. If you can side with them it will be beneficial to keeping the church running smoothly, and, in so doing, promoting unity. If you must side between the majority and the more affluent in your church, go with the more affluent. Even if the majority leaves, the money that the wealthy provide to your ministry will help bring in new people to promote unity among.
NOTE: A good general rule when trying to enforce unity is that you are the pastor, the overseer, the bishop, God’s right-hand-man; God has set you in a role to lead these people and they need to recognize the situation as such, submitting to the authority God has given you, and understanding that you are “God’s man” and that you are simply teaching and directing them to follow what God has told you, and by extension them, to do. Going against you is going against God. Unity is maintained through obedience to God which can only be achieved through listening to you, the head pastor, ordained by God.