So this morning I was lazy and didn't shower. I threw on old slacks and a t-shirt before going over to the church. It would be office stuff this morning, and then sermon work this afternoon. I didn't need to look nice. I had just come home for a quick lunch before a phone interview when someone came to call me back to the church. A man was there seeking information.
The congregation that has been his church home all his life is voting to close on Sunday. About 10 years ago they went against the wisdom of our judicatory to call a pastor with issues. He has succeeded in killing a congregation that once showed great promise. The board cooperated, of course, and this man, R, had warned them when he served on it that there were issues that had to be addressed if they were to survive. They ignored him.
Now R is grieving and seeking a new church. It would be quite a drive for him to come here, but he is willing. I grieved as I heard his story. He quit attending the church when his warnings were rejected. He could no longer give his unspoken support to what was happening (and not happening). He worries about his parents, who are elderly and are losing the only church they've ever known. He has gone through serious health problems these past few years without the support of a pastor. I grieve.
Why do we allow pastors without the skills and gifts they need to continue in the church? Why are churches so afraid of addressing issues and pursuing health? I invited him to worship, of course, but there was no joy in my invitation. There was grief over opportunities forever lost in a community which will soon have one less congregation ministering and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.