We often like to blame stunted church growth on variables that are “out there.” But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’d likely realize that we are often our own problem. So many churches stall out because of drama and gossip. Indeed, I’ve seen this happen several times in my short pastoral career. Such drama is almost always responsible for church splits and often responsible for a drop in church attendance. All it takes is one person with a grudge to sew their hard heart into others like a contagion. In due time, these minor moments grow into major problems and explode the beloved community from the inside.
Sometimes this kind of stuff happens out of the bitterness of our own spirit, but there are many other times where these moments are inspired by the spiritual warfare going on around us. When we make ourselves available to anger and gossip and harden our hearts, we give the enemy a foothold, which left unchecked, soon becomes a stronghold. So if we want our church to thrive it will require repentance on our part as we let go of the enemy’s tactics, soften our hearts, repent, and unconditionally love one another.
As Paul and Barnabas spread the gospel, a party of angry people shut them down by poisoning people’s minds against them. Their hatred, gossip and manipulation of others proved a solid tactic to stopping the gospel. This particular moment happened from the outside of the church. How much more deadly it is when it happens on the inside.
There is a reason Jesus told us to forgive one another and be reunited as quickly as possible, and nearly all of us have learned this reason from experience. We know what it’s like when other people turn on us—and if we’re honest with ourselves, we also know what it’s like when we turn on others. Let us repent and make space for the gospel once again.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 14:1-18 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.