An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

By John Pierce

A couple of fellows, one helping his apparent wife guide the buggy, crossed paths in the grocery store aisle just ahead of me on Saturday. They obviously once belonged to the same earthly expression of the Body of Christ.

“How ya doing?” they said to each other in unison. Each responded with warm words that concluded with “Good to see ya.”

The next aisle brought us all together again — though I was trailing just within earshot.

As they passed the second time, the one shopping solo said: “I think everybody done left the church.”

Not hearing any more of the conversation, I was left to wonder: “What church?” — and “Do schools not teach basic English grammar anymore?”

The tragedy (in addition to the abuse of language) is that the poorly stated description could apply to many churches. Division is not the rarity we wish.

The dynamics of church life are challenging. Potential for division lies in leadership styles, worship formats, social issues — and lesser things like easily-hurt feelings and the church’s refusal to enshrine the “good ol’ days.”

There are available resources within most congregations and without that can help guide a church through troubled waters. It is worth the effort to identify and use these before things go too far downhill.

Sometimes church leaders do foolish and hurtful things that drive people away. At other times, the expectations that some bring to church — like having all of their personal wants and wishes met rather than finding a place of service — create divisiveness.

Whatever the reason, church conflict always seems ugly. And it is often exacerbated by deniable.

So much is sacrificed — including the church’s reputation and effectiveness — when conflict grows into division and the word gets out that “Everybody done left the church.”

That sounds so bad on multiple levels.

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