Every Church Has a Story: Walking on Sacred Ground

by Grady King

I went to high school with friends who were Creek Indian. Their burial grounds were sacred. They were no mere cemeteries—simply holes in the ground.  These sacred burial sites were a blend of Indian traditions, fused with Christianity and the spirits of the “old ones” were respected in this sacred ground.  To come to this sacred place is to actively remember in deep humility and respect. It was, as if, the ground spoke wisdom. This is ministry with God’s people—walking on sacred ground.

I am blessed to walk on sacred ground with church leaders and congregations.  I am reminded in this work that God gave me two ears and one mouth. I listen to stories, lead processes for renewed vision, help with new minister searches, and discern helpful and healthy ways forward.  It is rewarding, perplexing and often, exhausting work calling me to prayer, discernment and deep learning. It is sacred ground.

Every church has a story. And within the main story are lots of stories—good, bad and at times, ugly. I am humbled to listen to the stories of faith, hope and love.  I am deeply saddened at what us church folk can do to one another in the name of religion. It is painful to experience the loss of church as a sacred trust to us flawed, sinful people dependent on God’s grace and the Holy Spirit.  At times, I am compelled to say to those who won’t learn from the past—“Which Bible are your reading? Which Jesus are you following?”   In private conversations with leaders and others, I walk on sacred ground and ask, “What would it take for you to let go of ….”  You finish the sentence… Anger? Bitterness? Fear? Guilt? Shame? Control?

For leaders, the church is sacred ground. To walk in this sacred ground we must be self-aware and God conscious in prayer and humility.

Almost every church has stories of division—those painful stories of confrontation, “throwing down the gauntlet” over opinions, or church direction. The result: friendships severed, families divided, people who won’t speak at the store and worst of all, those who are “done with church.”

My experience is that 99 percent of the time division is NOT over doctrine, rather personality, power and most importantly, pride.  Jesus said, “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16.18f). And he used flawed Peter to lead the way (Acts 2.14f). Peter had to learn. Peter had to grow. And when the cock crowed twice, Mark records, “And he broke down and wept.” (Mark 14.72).  Denial fulfilled just as Jesus said. Peter had to repent. And it was an old seasoned Peter who said, “Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5.7).

For leaders, the church is sacred ground.  To walk in this sacred ground we must be self-aware and God conscious in prayer and humility. Here are three essential sacred ground questions—

  1. In what way is your personality helping or hindering God’s people?
  2. What is the power/control issue in your life?
  3. Where does pride keep you from change for the sake of others?

Now, ask your best friend or spouse to answer these about you.

You are on sacred ground.

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