One of the little known facts about churches, so I hear, is that every 20 years or so, a church congregation splits. Yeah, this is mostly a Protestant problem, but go with me. You have to wonder what kind of message it sends to people outside the church when they see Baptist church A two blocks down the street from Baptist church B.
But the sad reality is that people are people.
Even church folks. Especially church folks.
I once went to a church that split over the issue of baptism. A valid thing to disagree over, you say, after all, it was one of the sacraments that Christ handed down. You’d think that … if the debate was, say, whether or not we should do away with it. However, the debate was over whether or not you should be dipped one time or three. Seriously. There was a conservative and liberal position. The conservatives argued that the individual should be dipped three times and that if you were only dipped once, you had to be re-baptized to become a member. The liberals thought that if being dipped once was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for membership.
Here’s a shock: my stance was that this whole debate was rather silly. I figured that if this was what we were arguing about, no wonder the world was laughing at us. Yeah, I got “called into the principal’s office” on that one. I was accused of spreading “apathy” in the face of challenges to the inerrancy of God’s word. Two words: puh leeze.
Splits can be painful to watch, be a part of, or live through. And there is rarely any room for a view from the sidelines. Especially when you have a vested interests in both sides. It’d be easy if all the people you cared about were on the same side, but that rarely happens. People lined up on both sides of the argument arguing vociferously. It quickly became personal. Long time friendships became suspect or casualties.
Turns out that the baptism issue was the final straw or excuse that a faction needed to break away. The debate exposed a certain level of dissatisfaction within the ministry that the head pastor either didn’t see or thought that he could keep together long enough to weather the worst of the storm. Turns out that the liberals were mostly upset with the leadership style and ministry direction.
But it was hard to not feel hurt or betrayed no matter which side you fell on.
I suppose I should make allowances for the special dynamics of a message board. Like churches, they are fellowship communities, built around common beliefs or interests. A diverse group of personalities, political beliefs, races, sexual preferences (yes, I said it: even in churches). As much as we’d like to believe that the posters are a collection of 1s and 0s streaming across our screens, the fact is that we talk with them. We share with them. We call each other friends.
And people are people.
Sometimes they can’t be helped. Sometimes no one’s at fault. Sometimes the relationship’s time has passed. Sometimes the people you love simply can’t get along anymore.
Every time … it hurts.
Good-bye MBOTD. You’ll be missed.