Summary: Ding Ding! What happens when a church fights? This sermon looks at some causes and effects of church fights.
Have you ever seen a good church fight? I mean not the casual disagreement about something but I mean the old fashioned fist flying, head-butting, table crashing, chair smashing on the back, bottle over the head church fight? Well I haven’t seen one either, and I hope I never do, but this week I read a story about a church that might just come close. In Fair Oaks, Kentucky, and I promise you I don’t know why all these stories end up coming from Kentucky, but in Fair Oaks, Kentucky there is a church called Calvary Baptist Church and the pastor there was a man by the name of Al Grounds. Now Al Grounds never truly wanted to be the pastor there. As a young man at age 13 he heard his calling into the ministry but he did his best to ignore it. He went on to start a successful business but he that feeling never left him, and after he was diagnosed with cancer in his throat, he told God that if he was healed he would answer that call. Well, to the doctor’s amazement he was healed, and he did answer the call. And answer it he did.
He began to preach on street corners, in bars, every where he could go and tell others about what God had done for him. He had to make up for lost time. And people responded to his message. Folks came from far and wide to hear him speak. The folks at Calvary Baptist church had heard of Al and before long they sent for him and asked if he would become their pastor. Finally, after months of saying no, Al accepted the call to Calvary Baptist.
His first two years there flew by. People who never cared about religion flocked to the church. Crowds packed the aisles. During the summer people stood outside the windows to hear the services. Never before in its history had the church grown so rapidly. People drove from as far as 75 miles away for midweek services.
The more the church grew, the busier Al became. God not only gave him back his voice and his life, He blessed his ministry in ways Al never imagined. But not everyone shared in his enthusiasm.
The first sign of trouble came as a low rumble emanating from the senior ladies’ Sunday school class. Al didn’t think much of it. After visiting several class members, he decided only one or two were actually upset. At the epicenter stood Imogene Hurst.
Imogene was always mad about something, but Al never imagined the depth of her anger toward him. His days of preaching in bars embarrassed her. She found his pastoral style undignified. But that only scratched the surface. Imogene had enjoyed her role as church matriarch for years. People looked to her before making major decisions. She wasn’t the most respected member of the church, only the best informed. She knew things about key leaders that they didn’t want anyone to know, especially their spouses. And Imogene wasn’t shy about using what she knew to get her way.
But in Al Grounds, Imogene found herself up against a man she could not manipulate. So she decided he would have to go. At the September business meeting. After dispensing with the usual round of reports and statistics, Imogene Hurst asked to be recognized. Rising to her feet she began, "I’ve been a member of this church all of my life. And all of my life this has been my church, my home. Just like it’s been home to lots of you. But it isn’t home any more." She looked around the room.
"Now, thanks to that man," she spat the words as she pointed at Brother Al, "this church is full of people who don’t belong here. They don’t live here, they don’t know us, they don’t belong. Now it’s time for them to go. I make a motion that Al Grounds be removed from the position of pastor and that all names of those living outside the city limits of Fair Oaks be removed from the church rolls." She got one of her friends to second the motion, but the rest of the church stood to testify to how Pastor Al had impacted their lives. They not only refused to let him go, but the church rescinded the membership of Imogene and her twelve others who were with her. As she left the building she screamed out loudly, “This is not the end of it! This is not the end of it!”
And it wasn’t. A few weeks later Pastor Al was called to the Sherriff’s office to be notified that he and 5 deacons were being sued by Imogene and her gang for $140,000. He didn’t give it much worry because he knew there wasn’t grounds for the case, but soon after there were obscene phone calls made to him and his family, threats on his life, and even during one service, a man pretended to come to answer the altar call only to pull out a knife and charge toward the pastor. Luckily he was stopped, but things kept going downhill.