I apologize if what I am relating to you about my story seems to be all over the place. My thoughts have been scattered a little. I have had time to think as I sit in this room and I tend to write my thoughts down as I write them. From this point I will make an effort to try to keep the events in chronological order and elaborate where I feel it is needed. My story is an interesting one and I really think people need to hear it. But I want people to hear it not because it is my story but because it is something the Lord did through me. It was a lesson I learned and everyone needs to read.
Now what I have written up to this point is in relative order. I did see that the church began to grow as members began to reach out to people they didn’t really know. This wasn’t limited to new people who came to a service. This also meant people who they have seen at church many times before but just never talked to them. It was amazing to me that so many of the original hundred or so members were still essentially strangers. They exchanged greetings and such but they didn’t know much beyond their names and what type of car they drove (funny, people always seem to notice and remember what type of car others drive as if it really was a matter of importance). They had never been to each other’s houses or anything.
What I originally found disturbing was the amount of gossiping that went on in the church. There were groups of couples and families, cliques if you will, and they would gossip about people they barely knew in passing, and speak as if they were an authority on the topic. Most of what they talked about was hearsay and rumors, and only half true. Nobody went to the target of the gossip to get the real story. Why? I presume it was more fun to talk about it amongst their friends and speculate on the circumstances, and then add their own commentary. It was sad and pathetic, and completely wrong in light of what I knew about what the bible said about gossip and the community of believers.
I know we are supposed to be a family, and families gossip. But a church family should learn to rise above the gossip and bring to those who are the target of the gossip a sense of support, love and acceptance. I believe that when we gossip about someone we are actually rejecting that person as a valuable person. I suppose one could argue that Jesus sounded like He was gossiping when He warned His disciples about the Pharisees and scribes, but what He said in private was tame compared to what He said to the Pharisees in public.
Needless to say, atmosphere in the church was one that was considered somewhat cold and standoffish. It was a culture that had to be changed, and in order to change it when I first got there I had to essentially shock them and get them to question, and squirm, their attitudes. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are to be as one body and one family. Not as a blood related family that remembers all offenses, slight and immense, and brings them up or allows them to taint relationships.
How do I know that this was the culture in the church? In order to tell you that I must digress a little bit further.