To be honest, I'm not at all sure that I should be writing this post, but, given that I maintain anonymity (I really am not sure that's a word, but spell checker suggested it after seeing my attempt to make a fitting word, so we trust spell checker, right?) on this site, I am all in favor of full disclosure.
Okay, wow, I just reread that paragraph above and I feel the need to clarify that this post is NOT going to be a "TMI" (too much info!) type post where you read about any juicy or disturbing personal details! I meant I'm not sure I should write this post because it seems like it's one of those topics that people don't discuss freely. Particularly "Christian" people, of which I am one. Okay. Back to the nutshell:
My family has attended a small (less than 30 members) Christian Church since 2008. There have been ups and downs, but we LOVE the people there and have made some connections that (we hope) will remain intact as lifelong friendships. We've often wondered whether it was the right fit for us, though. For a LOT of reasons that I don't need to get into. We prayed and prayed & God seemed to tell us in one way or another to "hang in there." In March 2011 I took over what we called a "Soup Kitchen" where, once a month, a few of us serve soup, sandwiches & desserts and offer some food shelf items to anyone who attends. Typical attendance is 25 people including volunteers & their families.
Our small church has limited resources and has been unable to really determine their "calling" or "niche". The Pastor called me one day & asked me what I thought about taking a break from the Soup Kitchen for one month to "step-back" from our normal routines and see what God wants. Sounds like not a big deal, but I brought it to God in prayer. For three days straight, I felt convicted during times of prayer and Scripture reading that God truly did want me to continue with the Soup Kitchen. "Really, God? Seriously?" I asked Him. "Really. Seriously," He seemed to reply.
My husband and I shared with the Pastor & his wife that we were planning to leave the church, but I highly doubt he believed us when we tried to explain it had nothing to do with the Soup Kitchen issue at hand. The Pastor cited 1 Peter 2:13 in reference to obeying authorities. He asked my response and I explained that since I am so clear on God's direction for me and the church's advice goes contrary, I must adhere to God's calling above that of man's. I shouldn't fail to mention that I offered to do the Soup Kitchen without the help of any other church members, that they may all remain in obedience to the leadership's suggestion.
The Soup Kitchen has been run faithfully by the same 3 families and 3 individuals and actually (sadly) has little to do with the church itself. It only recently became voted in as a "church ministry" and was always done previously as something independent of the church. When it was voted in as a "church ministry", nothing about how it was run changed, and the supplies are not purchased with church funds. It still baffles me that, though we've been serving the community in this way for 3 years, once it officially becomes associated with the church, they ask us to stop for a month and then (pardon my childish wording here) they throw a fit when we say we'd rather keep serving the hungry and less fortunate.
Anywho... I figured the worst is over. We put in our "final notice", of sorts, stating when our last Sunday of attendance would be. I spoke to the facility we use and the food shelf which provides nonperishable items to us and let them know that the church was "suspending" the ministry for a time until they decide their direction and asked if it would be acceptable to them for my family and one other family (that isn't a part of that church) to continue doing the Soup Kitchen. They were all for it and thanked me for our willingness to continue. Then it dawned on me, technically speaking, all the silverware, trays, bowls, and other items we use for serving probably became "church property" when Soup Kitchen was voted in as a ministry. Not wanting to disregard this fact, I wrote an email requesting that the church leadership would decide whether or not I may be permitted to continue use of this equipment which was purchased by our volunteers for this purpose. (Otherwise, I would bring it all to the storage facility and purchase the items again.)
The response that I got was more than I bargained for:
Please read the following Scriptures: Psalm 133, Ephesians 4:1-6, and Hebrews 13:7-17
Right now the use of the bins and their content is the least of my concerns. Just to clarify again, currently the church is suspending the soup kitchen only for the month of September. If we see that the soup kitchen is what God is doing then we will continue with it and will need the bins.
What deeply troubles me is that you and others have decided to carry on with the soup kitchen despite the request of your church leaders to suspend it for one month. Over the past few months we have been trying to bring the church to unity in order to see what God is doing, adjust to Him, and join Him in his work for this church rather than just doing things and asking God to bless them. Is the soup kitchen part of what God is doing in the community or is it something else? This is an important question. Sometimes we try to make things work because of our own desires and/or out of our own strength verses joining God in what He is doing.
Unity is an incredibly important Biblical mandate. The most important thing we can do at this time is to focus on the unity of the church so we can all see what God is doing and join Him as a body and not as individuals acting independently doing what they think is best.
God has spoken not only through your church leaders but also through circumstances. With the building not even available on the second Tuesday in August, it would have been very easy to suspend the soup kitchen as we requested. Your refusal to respect and follow our leadership is very disheartening and very serious. Through this rebellious choice you have stepped away from any spiritual protection of your church and harmed the unity of the Body.
What concerns me the most is I know that you desire to service God, but as we serve Him we must also be willing to follow. As your pastor I have encouraged you, and do so again, to not continue disobeying the Word of God by ignoring your leadership. God uses church leaders to guide, protect and rebuke when necessary. That is why I pray you will repent and learn to allow God to lead through others even when you disagree.
So, after reading this, and mind you, I was emotionally drained from the 3 separate 1+ hour conversations I'd had with the Pastor (during which I wept about 60% of the time due to feeling so deeply misunderstood and seemingly helpless to change the fact) I began to question myself. I began to believe that maybe I was just prideful, stubborn or insubordinate. I cried out to God for wisdom, because, if I was indeed taking a stand on the wrong principle, at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, I needed to know, repent and restore relationships.
The Soup Kitchen has been called a "fruitless" ministry by some in our church, due to the low number of people attending. These people don't help with the Soup Kitchen and don't attend to see that what we lack in quantity, is made up for in quality. Our mission was never to feed the whole town; it was to serve the needy.