Only the second sin ever recorded in the Bible (Genesis 4) happened in the context of worship. Common sense might dictate that worship would be the last place or time to birth sin. Worship might seem a preventative. But if you have spent much time in church or around church people, you know from experience that is not so.
Ever wonder why?
Genesis 4 records that Cain became violently angry when God rejected his offering. Perhaps he was mad at himself but it seems that he was mad at God. And anger with God caused him to lash out at another person. A person has no way to attack (other than verbally) God. So we turn on people when we are mad at God. Our anger with God causes us to hurt other people.
That might explain why churches can be hurtful, angry places. We want to blame God, or someone, when life does not unfold as we would like. But innocent by-standers often become our targets. And we unload with ferocity.
In twenty-five years of experience, I have seen the best and worst in church. When it is good, it is very good. When it is bad, it is devastating.
Our church recently had opportunity to serve passengers in a train vs. truck collision. It happened right across from our church and the train passengers were brought to our facility. People jumped at the chance to serve and they were champions that day. One passenger, as he was leaving, said, “We saw Jesus here today.” No sweeter words.
Yet often, conflict is just a decision away. Try pleasing 400 different people (no, don’t try…that is an exercise in insanity). Someone’s needs go unmet, someone disagrees with a decision… and the sweet people of God can follow the angry example of Cain. Murder is not usually the result. But mayhem can be.
When a person has unrealistic expectations of the church, these moments of mayhem devastate our faith. “Church should not be a place of anger and vitriol. Church people should be above all that.” Alas, church people do not have life all figured out. They are pilgrims–not disembarking passengers. Disappointment and anger may be worked out within the boundaries of church community. Often, inappropriately.
Church shows us the best and worst in people. I guess it has to be that way. I think this is why so many people decide to give up on church — or give up on a specific church. But the problem may not be with a particular church. The grass may not be greener somewhere else. This is something churches everywhere deal with. So the next time mayhem rises and the drama gets thick…know that if you hang on, the best of times may be right around the corner.