It began as an innocuous Twitter survey. But then it blew up.
A lot of church members and leaders were eager to share about fights, schisms, and conflicts in their congregations. They were likewise eager to point out the absurdity of these issues. There were the ones we’ve heard often: temperature in the worship center, color of carpet, order of worship, and color of walls.
The fights shown below, however, are a bit unusual. Indeed, most of them are downright absurd. I picked 25 of my “favorites.” They are listed in no particular order. The parenthetical commentary is my own.
- Argument over the appropriate length of the worship pastor’s beard (I think I saw a verse in Scripture that indicated it is to be no more than 1.5 inches longer than the pastor’s beard.).
- Fight over whether or not to build a children’s playground or to use the land for a cemetery (I’m dying to know the resolution of this one.).
- A deacon accusing another deacon of sending an anonymous letter, and deciding to settle the matter in the parking lot (The church could have sold tickets to this event and raised a lot of money.).
- A church dispute of whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women’s restroom (I’m calling unfair on this one. The men should have their stall dividers too.).
- A church argument and vote to decide if a clock in the worship center should be removed (I think this one is a timely argument.).
- A 45-minute heated argument over the type of filing cabinet to purchase: black or brown; 2, 3, or 4 drawers (This one is an official cabinet meeting of the church leadership.).
- A fight over which picture of Jesus to put in the foyer (I just want to know who took the pictures.).
- A petition to have all church staff clean shaven (No church planters are allowed.).
- A dispute over whether the worship leader should have his shoes on during the service (I vote for shoes, shirts, and pants.).
- A big church argument over the discovery that the church budget was off $0.10. Someone finally gave a dime to settle the issue (I have to admit this issue is ten times more important than the church missing a penny.).
- A dispute in the church because the Lord’s Supper had cran/grape juice instead of grape juice (Of course it should be grape juice. It’s right there in Hezekiah 4:11.).
- Business meeting arguments about whether the church should purchase a weed eater or not. It took two business meetings to resolve (Wow. This fight was really whacky.).
- Arguments over what type of green beans the church should serve (I could have resolved this conflict quickly: none.).
- Two different churches reported fights over the type of coffee. In one of the churches, they moved from Folgers to a stronger Starbucks brand. In the other church, they simply moved to a stronger blend. Members left the church in the latter example (Perhaps they started a new church: The Right Blend Fellowship.).
- Major conflict when the youth borrowed a crockpot that had not been used for years (I bet it was a bunch of crocky old adults.).
- An argument on whether the church should allow deviled eggs at the church meal (Only if it’s balanced with angel food cake for dessert).
- An argument over who has the authority to buy postage stamps for the church (The members were licking their wounds over this issue.).
- A disagreement over using the term “potluck” instead of “pot blessing” (I get it! The concept of luck contradicts the theology of a sovereign God. This issue is very serious. Good luck trying to resolve it. ).
- A church member was chastised because she brought vanilla syrup to the coffee server. It looked too much like liquor. (Beth Moore confessed she was the culprit who brought the syrup. Don’t you know, Beth, we Baptists cannot have vanilla syrup at anytime? Chocolate is fine though.).
- An argument in church over who has access to the copy machine (I think a calendar should be made where every church member has at least five minutes access to the copy machine each year. You can have a business meeting to vote on each five-minute increment.).
- Some church members left the church because one church member hid the vacuum cleaner from them. It resulted in a major fight and split (Thus the Second Electrolux Church was born.).
- An argument over whether to have gluten-free communion bread or not (I thought gluteny was a sin.).
- A dispute over whether the church should allow people to wear black t-shirts, since black is the color of the devil (Are you sure he’s not red? That’s what I’ve heard.)
- A fight over whether or not to sing “Happy Birthday” each week (I’ve got an idea. Alternate it with the doxology.).
- An argument over whether the fake, dusty plants should be removed from the podium (Just give them a little water. They should be fine.).
Yes. These issues are silly; many are absurd. But they are all distractions from what we should be doing in our churches. In that sense, they are really great distractions from the Great Commission.
Let me hear your stories!
Posted on November 11, 2015
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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So that’s what they are doing …. These silly things hurt the church’s witness. Can somebody please just answer the church’s phone and email, please.
A church almost split because they had been given a clock and could not agree to hang it on the front wall or the back. Right before a group was ready to walk out and start a new church someone offered to buy a second clock. How sad we seldom find Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 9:12–I would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.
I know I’m late to this conversation, but I must add one story (out of many). In a church I served years ago, it was very common for any and everything to come from the floor. So, we instituted a parliamentary procedures that all new recommendations from the floor would not be voted on at that time, but would go to the appropriate committee for research and discussion and brought back to the church. This concept passed and saved much headache over the years, until…
At a monthly business meeting, our custodian (who liked to stir up stuff occasionally) recommended we fix a leaky faucet in the men’s bathroom…I kid you not. Since it came from the floor and was new business, we had hardcore Robert’s Rules peeps make us discuss for 20 minutes whether or not to send it to committee and report back the following month. It is one of the few times I lost my cool in a service. I was in the back running the sound and just screamed out, “JUST FIX THE FAUCET!” Everyone with common sense agreed and we moved on. A 10 cent washer fixed the leak.
One time in church staff meeting (9,000 member church in a very affluent suburb in North Houston), a 25 minute argument ensued over how many hot-dogs should we order for after the 4th of July Service Celebration: “Should we order 1,200 or 1,500?” There was a food bank/kitchen literally 3 blocks away that would gladly take the excess. But we had to argue over 300 hot dogs for 25 minutes … because, you know, they’re so darned expensive and ‘we have to be good stewards.’
I once worked in a church that had a suggestion box. Apparently, the box filled up, unbeknownst to any of the staff. The pastor was approached with a complaint about me (the music minister), then asked if he had checked the suggestion box, which surprised him a bit. The box was located in a hallway with other relics of days passed, so we didn’t think much of it. We had to open it by cutting the padlock with a bolt cutter, and we found complaints from years before (some at least three pastors ago). I took the complaint box off of the wall, posted a sign with Philippians 4:8-9 on the place it hung all of those years, and never heard anything about it again.
When I was a senior in college I was president of the Baptist Student Union. Some of the students wanted to put a suggestion box in our center, and our BSU director agreed to it on one condition: all suggestions had to be signed. That upset a lot of students. Let’s just I’ve been a pastor for 20 years now, and I’ve come to appreciate our BSU director’s wisdom.
CORRECTION: Let’s just *say* I’ve been a pastor 20 years….
Some of those I saw happen in some congregations I have worked.
I would venture to guess that when members leave or a church splits over such trivial issues that the true reasons for the division go much deeper. Sadly, many members let things build up until they reach the final straw rather than resolving each issue as it arises.
I went to a new church and the mens bathroom off the entry hall to the sanctuary had a light bulb hanging down from the ceiling on a wire with a string to pull to turn it on. commode seat was particle board and was “melting” as particle board does after it gets wet. the sink vanity was also particle board and the bottom was crumbling away leaving the sink leaning sideways 2″ on one side. someone (me) went in and fixed it all with new parts and fixtures at their (my) own expense and was taken before the church business meeting because I did not ask permission. they even threatened to remove it all unless I went to building committee to get their permission.
every pastor reading this can add their own stories and I have way too many more but we are the ones that God has chosen to help them get beyond all the pettiness. pastors, keep the faith :-;
And meanwhile the world is going to hell – thank God we have more important things to deal with than that (sarcasm alert).
I’m a pastor who has a children’s time during the worship service where I teach a brief lesson and have them repeat a prayer after me. I was accused of being disrespectful because I didn’t teach them to pray correctly. And, oh yeah, this was done using an anonymous note left in the pastor’s box.
Anonymous notes have their place, and that place is the trash can. If I were you, that’s exactly where I’d put the one you received. If it’s not important enough for the person to attach his/her name to it, it’s not important enough for you to worry about.
The root cause for these issues, as dumb as they are, stems from ineffective leadership. When a pastor or elder, etc. allows non-sensical discussions to take place, it undermines the effectiveness of the body. When I was seeking a place of service as a pastor, I dealt with a lot of committees where it was obvious that there were people that gained positions of power to dictate their personal preferences.
One poster above talked about the heart, and that’s correct. It seems that many people involved in discussions like these probably aren’t saved or at the very least, wouldn’t know God’s will if it slapped them in the face. And no . . . my name’s not Will 🙂
You realise a lot of times new pastors inherit these things. So lets don’t shoot all the messengers.
And that, boys and girls, is why we changed our By-Laws years ago. Our one-a-year business meetings do nothing but receive the budget, and last all of ten minutes, including prayer.