Genesis 4:6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?”
James 1:19-20 Know this, …for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
A typical, perhaps normal reaction of church members to the subject of relocation/merger is anger. Someone not connected to the church would wonder why. The motive of those making the recommendation involves those things the church members value, such as greater opportunity for evangelism and growth. So why be angry?
Often, a reason for anger is that many of the members’ memories are associated with the building. One hears comments like: “My father was on the committee that built this building”, “We had my mother’s funeral here”, “Both of our daughters were married in this sanctuary”, or they may nostalgically recall sweet times with God there. It is very much like the experience of a family when the last patriarch or matriarch in a family passes away — they grieve not only the passing of the loved one, but also the loss of the house. That place, for them, is layered in memories. The same is true for our church buildings. No wonder such strong emotions bubble up!
Others may be angry that other church members oppose relocation/merger. They see them as standing in the way of progress and their dream of a whole new adventure with God. They may see anyone standing between them and that vision as the enemy — and they tend to treat them that way.
“Why are you angry?” is the question God asked Cain. Cain had offered a sacrifice of fruit to the Lord and the Lord had rejected his sacrifice. Cain had worked hard for the fruit. It was quality fruit and he felt good about it! While Cain‘s sacrifice was rejected, his herdsman brother Abel’s sacrifice was pleasing to the Lord. This made Cain furious! So, God came to reason with him. “If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7). In times of strong emotions, we too must master our anger.
You won’t treat people with whom you disagree in a Christ-like way when you are mad. It’s hard to make a wise decision when your judgment is impaired by anger. It is ungodly to attack a person whose motive is to help the church succeed, even if they see it differently than you. Nether loudly arguing not to move or to move based on headstrong desire, preference, or sentimentality is a godly approach. Instead, be careful to look for God’s leading in it. Be patient with those who see things differently. Pray and trust God to work things out in his way and in his time.
There is no reason to be upset or defensive. The one truth we have to come to terms with is this: All we have to do is obey God. Whether or not relocation/merger is the right thing, there’s nothing to be upset about. If it is God’s will – you will not be betraying your grandfather who was on the building committee or your daughter who was married in the sanctuary, and you won’t be cut off from more sweet times with God. Instead, you will be obeying God. If it is not His will, God will give you a renewed vision for your church for its current location and a new love for one another. So, relax, all we must do is obey.
Rev. Derek Gentle