It’s one of the earliest recorded church fights. Jesus and three of his friends are coming from an amazing, mind-bending, knee-knocking, awe-producing mountain-top experience. They are on their way back into the valley. Jesus led them down the mountain and in Mark 9:14 it describes what Jesus, James, John and Peter found in the valley…
At the foot of the mountain they found a great crowd surrounding the other disciples, as some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. The crowd watched Jesus in awe as he came toward them, and then they ran to greet him. “What is all this arguing about?” he asked.
Probably wouldn’t take long for us to come up with a Top Ten List of Stupid Church fights. How about the church in Vancouver, B.C.? They split over what paint to use in the new lobby…they weren’t even arguing over the color, the crucial question was oil-based or latex. I know we would never argue over something as trivial as the paint…it would take something far more important…like doctrinal issues…Baptist churches (we have a baptist heritage at Calvary) have been notorious for arguing about issues of the interpretation of scripture and correct belief. There are literally 100’s of Baptist Denominations…and most of them started with an argument.
There’s the Baptist General Conference (us) but please don’t confuse us with the General Baptist Conference — different group. There are the Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, but also The Separate Baptists which shouldn’t be confused with the Separate Bptsts in Christ — they’re two separate groups. There are the Reformed Baptists and the Regular Baptist and you would think that if there are Regular Baptists there would also be irregular Baptist, but I couldn’t find them, but I did find Old Regular Baptists. You’ll be glad to know that there are Freewill Baptists and Original Free Will Baptists. Landmark Baptists and Interstate Landmark Baptists, There are Primitive Baptists and Progressive Primitive Baptists.
Then my personal favorite…the Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists. I can’t even imagine what argument gave birth to that name. But all I can imagine is that name on a sign with the words underneath… All Welcome and I’m just thinking I don’t know…
I love my baptist heritage, but is it any wonder that people outside the church look inside and scratch their heads? Now I’m not saying there aren’t any doctrinal fights worth fighting, but I’m pretty sure God isn’t excited by 200 different groups of Baptists…I wonder how often people have felt like our debates were more important than their needs?
But look at Mark 9:15 and what happens when the crowd catches a glimpse of Jesus, “The crowd watched Jesus in awe as he came toward them, and then they ran to greet him.” When they saw Jesus, all the people watched him in awe and…and they ran to Him. Do you see that?
People living in the valley don’t come to our mountain because of the size of our crowd. People in need aren’t all that interested in our doctrinal debates. And I guarantee you that they aren’t running to see us…they want to see Jesus. Why do people come? Because they have a need. Who are the looking for? Jesus. Why are they looking for Jesus? Because nothing else worked.
You do realize that’s often when we come to God…when He’s our last hope. And of course if you aren’t familiar with where God hangs out…it makes sense that if He can be found anywhere he can be found in a church. But when this man (Mark 9) came looking for Jesus, he wasn’t there. It be good for those of us who grew up in church…to realize and remember what a disappointment it is when people come looking for Jesus and all they can find is us.
Which means the most life-giving strategy for any church…is simply make sure that Jesus is there when we are…