I started a church with two groups of otherwise drastically different people: church first-timers and first-time is a long-timers. So, from the onset, our church has seen everything in our people from theological blank slates to 4-5 point Calvinism, from the most pious to those who have a level of shame that has been embraced to a point that you’d believe the person to have no shame. Theological diversity and life philosophy, however, has little impact on the pain and hurt we all feel as human beings.
I dealt with all of this raw emotion in the first month of our church. I had people separated only by couches and empty space who hated each other. It was a void filled with tension and high emotional stakes. Nothing else would work. It was a room meant for the gospel, or we were all going to just go home. I’d like to say that everyone came out of those early meetings healthy and healed, but if you read what Jesus has to say on the matter, it seems that it doesn’t always end that way.
Hurt happens. And it is unavoidable. It has happened to me inside of church, outside of church, and on the sojourn in between, and though what I believe about offense and hurt matters, it never relinquishes the pain, dulls the feelings, or softens the blow.
I am often unsure if my church starting experience is similar to that of my gospel preaching peers, but I know this much to be true: people need to learn forgiveness and exercise it, especially church people. This includes me, and by that admission, I would also dare to say that it means each and every one of us. Though some may say they’ve learned forgiveness, I would challenge them to relearn and revaluate Jesus’s teachings on it, to exercise the practices taught in Matthew 5:23, 6:14, and 18:15.
I believe that individually there is still much for us to learn about forgiveness, and even more so, there is much for us to learn corporately. Imagine with me the power of a forgiving church. Dream with me the joy of such a place, the peace of such a place. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that church?
I want to be a forgiving church. I want to experience the restoration of my friends and family in the gospel. I want to see them mend friendships that they thought were long since torn. I want to see that empty space between couches filled with familial friendship, harmony, and the love of Christ. I believe that it can, but more importantly: I believe that it will. That’s why I started a church. That’s why I pastor a church.