My wife’s family loves Westerns. In fact, the first time I went to Mary’s house the first thing I noticed was the rather large print of John Wayne above the TV. So, as you can imagine, I’ve watched my share of gun-slinging cinema. Probably the classic Western is one in which the band of outlaws comes into town every so often and shoots it up, drinking and carousing and having their way. The town sheriff might have the authority as the law, but he can’t face the outlaws by himself. In typical Western movie build-up, the final shoot-out of the film has the town folk convinced to quit hiding in their homes and businesses. The outlaws come into town thinking they will have their way again, but this time the people are ready with rifles on their roof tops, and a plan to bring them down to size. It works, and the town once again restores law and order, having found their courage to not only survive in the Old West, but to thrive.
Christian pastors are some of the loneliest people on earth. They’re that way because far too many congregations are like the old Western town folk. They don’t have the gumption to stand up to the church outlaws. So, they let their sheriff get shot in the street by the bad guys while they cower in fear behind the bar.
No pastor can stand alone. He/she needs the strong support of church members who will stand with that pastor when the outlaws ride into church on their high horse. When individual church members have had their way with a congregation for too long, they use every trick in the book (even trying to use the Bible for their backup) to keep the status quo because the way things are keeps them in power.
Make no mistake about it, keeping power is what the outlaws want. They will appeal to the fact that: they are charter members; they give more money than anybody else; they did a certain ministry for decades; they know what the congregation is really thinking and feeling; and, they’ve seen pastors come and go and they’re still there. Therefore, you should always listen to them and do what they say.
Never mind that the church outlaws have never led another person to Jesus Christ (even though they’ll tell you how to do it). Never mind that they don’t read their Bibles (even though they’ll let you know how many thousands of sermons they’ve heard over the years). Never mind that they don’t worship God as a lifestyle (even though they’ll fight to the end over what a worship service is supposed to be like).
If you’re reading this right now, chances are that you are not one of the church outlaws. That’s because church outlaws are never learners and growers in Christ – they are only power-brokers in the church system. This is precisely why you need to support your local sheriff and get that rifle out and head for the roof top. If you don’t, the outlaws will keep throwing their bluster and weight around to get what they want. And what will get lost in it all is God’s kingdom getting extended to the people who need it the most, and God’s will done on earth, as it is done in heaven.
What’s at stake is not only your church’s reputation, but your community’s need for Jesus Christ. Church outlaws don’t need to hold your congregation hostage. Conflict in and of itself is not bad – it’s how you go about it. But leaving a pastor out in the street to be hung by the outlaw mob in the name of keeping the peace is very bad and is not at all becoming of a faithful follower of Christ. Not to mention that God himself will take notice of it if we refuse to act.
Seek out your pastor. Listen well to him/her. Hear their heart for the church, and for the community. Ask them how you can help. And determine to stand with them when the outlaws ride into town.