Menu

Join us each Sunday morning for Sunday School at 9:15am and Worship at 10:30am

I Survived a Church Split

17
churchsplit

For the first time in my life, my mom didn’t want me going to church. Normally, that wasn’t an option, but she had heard that the monthly business meeting that night could get ugly. I told her I was old enough to handle it, and after much begging, she agreed to let me sit in the balcony, which also never happened.

Looking down on the congregation below, I realized there were a lot more people at this business meeting than normal. The congregation was divided that night. Literally, there were two distinct groups of people sitting on opposite sides of the sanctuary. The two sides went back and forth as people went up to the microphone down front and voiced either their concern or support for the direction of the church. Some shouted, some cried. Some quoted scripture, some quoted bylaws. Some pleaded for unity, some called for change.

Seemingly everyone had an opportunity to make their case, everyone except for one person on the very front row. Our pastor sat directly in front of the microphone, five feet away, never saying a word or even shaking his head. He just quietly listened as people from his own flock hurled accusations and even insults. I realized in that moment why my mom didn’t want me there. It’s hard watching your pastor endure that. It’s especially hard when your pastor is your dad.

Growing up, my dad was my hero. He could do no wrong. He was the greatest pastor in the history of pastors. So seeing someone criticize him was a shock. I was so confused. Don’t they know all that he’s done? Don’t they know what he’s sacrificed? Don’t they know all the people he’s helped? They didn’t see the hours he worked off the clock. They didn’t know about the anonymous letters, the frustrating meetings, the late night phone calls, the house visits. They had it all wrong.

As a 7th grader, I remember feeling totally betrayed. For me, our church building was an extension of my home. It was a safe place. I had grown up there. So much of my identity was wrapped up in being a pastor’s kid. Too much, probably. I loved being a pastor’s kid, and I took pride in it. I bragged about knowing the best hiding places in the church and which Sunday school rooms had candy in them. In many ways, the church was my home and my family.

That’s why this moment rocked me like it did. For the first time in my life, I felt unwanted and unsafe in my own church. The place I saw as a constant had become a threat. Some of the very people who loved on me every week were now calling for my dad to be fired. I looked around the room, waiting for someone to fight for us. I saw some of the very people I thought would do anything for us, and they remained silent. They just wanted “to stay out of it.”

My dad chose to resign and walk away before things became worse. I remember asking him, “Dad we can win. Why don’t you fight back?” And he said, “Why didn’t Jesus fight back?” I knew then it wasn’t about winning. It wasn’t about sides, “us” versus “them”. It was about the church.

Growing up in church, I saw the good and the bad. I saw moments of revival and moments of rage. I saw people radically changed by the gospel, and I saw people so stuck in their ways. I saw people who loved Jesus, and I saw people who loved tradition. I saw it all.

I’m willing to bet that if you’ve spent any amount of time in church, you’ve seen some good and bad. Maybe like me, you’ve been burned by the church. Maybe you walked away and swore you would never go back. Sadly my story is not uncommon. I personally know many people who have been permanently damaged by something that happened at church.

If it were not for my parents, I’m not sure where I would be. Because of the way they responded, with humility, choosing not to speak badly about the church, I survived a church split. I actually walked away loving and believing in the church more than ever. Since then, I have committed my life to serve the local church.

Here are three reasons why I still believe in the local church:

1. The church is my family.

Church is not a building, a list of programs, or a big room with pews and a steeple. The word “church” in the original language of the Bible literally means “assembly” or “gathering”. The church is people. People gathered together in unity as the body of Christ.

When the very first church got started, they didn’t have a building or even a name. But they had 3,000 people filled with the Holy Spirit and passionate about Jesus. So what did they do? Acts 2:42-46 tells us, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common… Every day they continued to meet together.”

They immediately started meeting together…every day. They viewed the gathered, assembled church as absolutely essential to their Christian life. In fact, there is absolutely no concept in the New Testament of someone following Jesus and rejecting the church. All of the books in the New Testament were letters written to churches or leaders in churches. There were no solo Christians.

I could not live the Christian life without the church. Seriously, many of the commands in the New Testament for Christians have to do with the church. How can we love one another, serve one another, pray for one another, and confess our sins to one another if there is no “one another”? We can’t. We need the church to obey scripture.

I have learned to view the church as my family. Not because of the warm hugs during the welcome time, or the elderly ladies that remind me of my grandmother, or the potluck dinners. It’s because I have a unique bond with them that’s deeper than human blood. Our bond is the blood of Christ. My church and I have the same spiritual DNA. We believe the same things, value the same things, and strive together for the same things.

Sure, we have a few crazy uncles. We have our family disagreements. But that’s my family. I’m joined to them and will one day be in heaven with them (with even better potlucks).

2. The church is the bride of Christ.

“I love Jesus, but man, I really don’t care for his wife.” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sit well with me. You can say all you want about me, but attack my wife? That’s just not ok.

Ephesians 5 tells us that Jesus is married to the church. He loves the church in a special way. So it makes no sense to accept Him and reject His bride. It’s just not right. It’s also not right to attack and put down the church.

Look, I know she’s not perfect. No church is perfect. It’s filled with horrible sinners! (It always makes me laugh when people reject the church because it’s filled with hypocrites. What do they expect? Your workplace, school, the gym, Walmart are also filled with hypocrites. Should we avoid them as well?)

This is where the marriage analogy is helpful. I don’t love my wife because of the way she makes me feel or the things she does for me. I love her because she’s my wife. I’ve made a commitment to her until death do us part. My wife is not perfect (though I think she is pretty darn close!), but I choose to love her anyway. No matter what she does, I will love her. She’s my wife.

This is how I feel about the church. There will be conflicts and some issues to sort through. (Have you read Paul’s letters to the churches he started? They had some serious issues.) Occasionally there will be some hurt feelings and even sinful mistakes. But at the end of the day, I love the church because Christ loves the church.

3. The church is God’s plan A.

When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He gave it to a group of followers that would become the church. When the Holy Spirit came, He filled that group of people known as the church. When the Word of God was written, it was sent to the church.

The hope for the world is not found in the government, the education system, science, technology, or anything else. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ and the salvation he brings from sin and judgment. The good news about his death and resurrection is the only message that saves. The church has been entrusted with that message. We have been called to take that good news to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations. That mission will not be accomplished by individuals. It will be accomplished by the church. The church has always been and will always be God’s plan to accomplish this mission, and there is no plan B.

Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” That’s why Jesus came. To build the church, teach the church, die for the church, and send the church. Organizations will come and go. Programs will succeed and fail. Even nations will rise and fall. But the church will endure forever. Jesus said so.

If the church is God’s plan to accomplish the Great Commission, then I want to be a part of the church.

 

I understand that being a part of the church can be challenging, frustrating, and even hurtful sometimes. If I can be honest, there are some things about the church that bother me too. But at the end of the day, I choose to believe in the church, love the church, and commit my life to the church. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s what I believe He calls us to do.

Denominations will rise and decline, buildings will be built and torn down, and sadly, churches will split. But one day, there will be a greater split. The heavens will split open, and Christ will return for His church. And when that day comes, everything will be the way God intended. No more conflicts. No more controversies. And no more business meetings. We will be with Him, and He will be with us…the church, that is.

17 Comments

I have waited to comment because I don't know exactly how to say what's in my heart for Micah and what he said. And now all of your comments that are so incredibly encouraging and genuine.

I was surprised at how I stayed seated that night at church and didn't make any comments. People asked me how I did it (because it was so out of character for me to sit without comment!). I know now. I think my children will be my greatest legacy and, Micah, I'm so honored by what you said. Nothing can replace the honor of your children. By God's grace, I have great children. To think -- FIVE pastor's kids who are all faithful to the church and to the Lord. That's God at work.. I realize how really, really blessed Susan and I are by our children. We are able to see what GOD has done.

Susan always honored me and spoke words of blessing to me and about me. Our children learned it from her. When Micah says these good things about me, I have to point to Susan and say, She taught them that kind of attitude and spirit.

Maybe God called me to be a pastor so He could use me in Micah's life and calling. Maybe God's plans all along are for Micah and who He will be and what He will accomplish for the Kingdom. That would be the best of blessings.

Micah, I was one of those people that your Dad helped. I hadn't been to church in over 30 years, but one Sunday morning I turned the tv on and your Dad's message was on the Power of Prayer. I started listening and couldn't change the channel. I will always remember that day and how it changed my life. By the way, you're right, your Dad is the greatest pastor ever. He and your mom have the biggest and most forgiving hearts of anyone I have ever met. They also raised five wonderful kids!

Micah, thank you for writing this. I will never forget that night. We all have been changed by it, but our amazing God has loved us all through it- both sides of the family. You know we live your parents and all of you Hayes children who have become such wonderful adults! So glad to see what God is doing in and through you!

Your Dad was the best Pastor that church Ever had. He gave everything to church ask very little in return . I am really sad he longer has a church in shelbyvile. Because He was the most authentic person here. He was and is still a great visionary and had a great vision for the church but as usual politics get in the way of the success of the church.

Your dad is still my hero and I plan to always be his friend. The events that lead up to the split is also a major part of over a hundred thousand Hindu's in Nepal going to heaven. What the enemy planed the Lord changed for His glory.

Micah I heard this sermon when you did it at church and retread it. It was a great one then and hope others feel the same. Life experiences made you who you are today. All part of Gods plan for your life and your testimony. By the way. Really enjoyed your sermon on the dry bones. You may want to share that one also. God bless your ministry.

Thank you Micah for writing this. You probably don't remember me. I was the secretary at FBC when your dad was there. We too have the utmost respect for your dad. He helped my husband Tom through a very difficult time. With his guidance Tom was actually able to stand in front of the church members and actually forgive the person who had murdered our daughter! Drew Hayes is an excellent pastor and I am so sorry that he and his family had to endure what you are describing . I only wish that we had still been there to stand with him. God bless you and your family. Hugs to your mom and dad.

Wow. That was spot on Micah. You are right about people getting hurt and having a hard time recovering, But you are so much more right about the Bride of Christ. This is a good word. Look forward to reading more. :)

I'm so grateful that God has brought you through such a difficult time. That night broke my heart and shattered a family. God has obviously used this to work a great good through you, Micah. God bless.

Very good word my brother. Very good word

Honey you are wise beyond your years. I'm so glad you had great parents that gave you such a good example. We went through serving as praise and worship leaders and strife got in and we got fired. We loved that church very much. I won't go in to details but my heart was broken. I cried so many tears, but we knew it wasn't God's fault. The church don't even exist any more and a lot of the members don't even go to church anymore. We decided we were going to serve God no matter what. God has been too good to us to stop now. I'm proud of you for not giving up. God is too.

Dang, that was good! Thanks for sharing, bro. Honest, inspiring, challenging, biblical, Christ-centered....that moved me and made my week. I have always loved your dad. God used him to make a difference in my life. What an impact he had. He always had my back and supported me thru some crazy times. To this day I thank God for your father. God bless you. I look forward to reading more of your writings. Brett

Your family is very special to me and you will always have my love. Many prayers have been directed to Our Father on your behalf and it made my heart so happy to see that the evil one was not able to steal, kill and destroy your family. It is a testament to God's grace and great love. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Wonderful! Simply wonderful! What a great insight for anyone that has been through a church split (or several). Thanks Micah!

I have also been in a split church, terrible feeling hurt to the bone. I believe in my church l believe GOD sent our Pastor & he will be with us until GOD takes him away.Thak u Micah for sharing, Charles & l love u & Amber, soon Charlotte, blessings.

Well said! Thanks for the insight that so many of us PK's have experienced. This hit so many emotions within me even after 40 years. I am so thankful that I had my eye on Jesus instead of man.

Micah Hayes, simply beautiful and was such a hard time for so many, especially your family. I have never been so disillusioned as I was that night. My "family" was split and it horrified me. Thank the good Lord for his grace and mercy, for opening the doors that only He could see at the time. May His blessings cover you and yours, all the days of your life

Leave a Comment

Comments for this post have been disabled.