Summary: This is the second message in my SURVIVOR series, focusing upon the way every church ought to be (09-22-2002).
There was a church in a small town in Tennessee that had a most interesting name. The sign in front of it said “Left Foot Baptist Church.” There was a young man who passed by the building several times, and he always got a good chuckle from the name. Finally, one day when he was waiting on his bus, he asked someone about the church with the unusual name.
I don’t believe that he was counting on the answer that he got. He found out that several years before a great conflict arose in the church. You see, it was a foot-washing Baptist church – they washed one another’s feet as an act of worship. But the conflict broke out over which foot should be washed first. Half of the congregation thought they should start with the right foot. The other half thought that they should always start with the left foot. The conflict simmered and brewed until finally the left-foot proponents split off and organized their own church. Of course, they called it “Left Foot Baptist Church.”
(From 1001 More Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking, Michael Hodgin, p.108.)
Most of us can testify to the fact that churches are notorious for the conflicts that they can generate. It’s pretty sad, really, how churches have become such a joke in most communities. Most of you have been there. You have been involved in the fighting over ludicrous stuff. The biggest fights in churches don’t come over doctrine or theology or even spiritual practice. They erupt over silly, insignificant details – like left foot versus right foot! I have seen a church ripped apart over the color of the carpet that was being laid in a hallway! I once served in a church where a knock-down, drag-out fight broke out because we removed the forty-year old curtains from the nursery windows and hung new ones. My former church almost split over the issue of hanging a screen in the worship center!
It is truly tragic and sad when those sorts of fights break out in churches … and they so often do. But the most tragic part is to see God’s people divided … to see them attack and reject one another. I have actually seen where churches voted to have people disfellowshiped … kicked out of the church … because of the something stupid like the color of the choir robes or the padding on the pews! They wanted to actually run them out of the church so that they could have their own way!
That sort of behavior sounds more like the world that it does the family of God. God’s people shouldn’t treat one another that way. The church should have a different atmosphere … a different environment from that of the world.
The absurd behavior that I have described sounds a lot like something that might happen on the “Survivor” TV show. Like I told you last week, someone gets voted out of the tribe on every episode. It can be for a variety of reasons. They could be obnoxious, bossy, hard to get along with, or simply weak. But on every show, someone gets the boot. In the early days of the show, it’s usually because they are just different.
I taped the episode from this past week, and I want you to actually see it. I want you to actually see the dynamic of someone being rejected and thrown out of their community.
Show Tribal vote from Survivor 5: Thailand (September 19, 2002).
Isn’t that typical. The preacher gets voted off! Somebody else lost the contest, and the preacher got blamed for it!
Did you see the dynamics of that vote? Did you see the discomfort in the group? There was tension because they knew someone had to go! And now that we have seen it all happen, we know that there was a conspiracy going on. There was a strategic plan to remove that man! The preacher! As he left the area you could almost see the knife sticking out of his back. But did you see the emotion on some of the other people? It hurt them, too! You see, when we do evil or intentionally hurt someone, it can’t help but cost us ad hurt us also.
Transition to Biblical Application
I hope that we can all agree that this isn’t the sort of behavior that belongs in the community of the church. In fact, God’s word teaches us that this sort of behavior is completely the opposite of what He desires for us to have in His church. God does not delight in seeing His people fuss and bicker, fight, scheme, and inflict pain upon one another. He has other plans.
Today we will be studying two verses in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is called a letter, but its form is more like that of a sermon. It was written to the early Jewish-Christian community. Apparently some of them were considering returning to Judaism and abandoning Christianity altogether. They were being persecuted by both the Romans and other Jews. Jesus had not returned yet. Things just weren’t what they expected them to be. There was apparent apathy in the church … people just weren’t attending the fellowship of the church like they used to. It seems that the church that was established among the Jews was suffering … it just wasn’t the church that it used to be.