Believe it or not, I write this post to introduce you to a bird—a beautiful cardinal. I haven't named him, but I know him well because he's been hitting our window for hours each day. He flies into the window, retreats, hits it again, retreats and then repeats the pattern for hours. Literally.
A Google search tells me that he thinks he sees another bird of his own kind in his reflection, and he's protecting his territory. It's his turf, and he doesn't want another bird on it. What's foolish to me is that, in his desire to protect his own turf, he hurts only himself. Over and over again.
Even more crazy to me, though, is when Christians act the same way:
- When we refuse to support a church plant in our area. We think a new church might take some of our members, and we don't want that to happen—so we do our best to block the plant (but in a Christian way, of course).
- When we choose not to welcome someone of a different color into our fellowship. It's hard to believe, but we still hear things like, "They have their own church."
- When we treat our denomination as if we are the only true believers. Not many believers I know publicly make this claim about their denomination; instead, they just live that way.
- When we refuse to train others to take over "our" ministry. We don't train anybody else because we don't ever want to give up our leadership role—which would then require giving up our power and position as well.
- When we never invite anyone else to share the pulpit. As a pastor, I understand our desire to preach the Word and guard the doctrine of the church. Sometimes, though, we protect the pulpit because we fear someone might preach better than we do.
- When we guard our small-group space like it's our property. I've seen on-campus small groups mark their space by decorating their own room, buying their own furniture, and even crocheting their names in chair covers. That's seriously territorial.
- When we refuse to invite younger people into the leadership structure. "They're not ready yet," we say—and then quietly determine that they'll never be ready as long as we're in charge.
Not unlike the cardinal at my house, we protect our turf even from other believers—from people who belong to our own family. And in the end, we hurt ourselves as much as we hurt anyone else.
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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