You Think Your Church Has Problems?!?

So you think you have problems getting along with people? Do you have issues avoiding disputes and squabbles with people in your life—family, friends, neighbors, coworkers? The good news (or maybe it’s bad news) is that you are not alone.

A major theme of my trip to the Holy Land was just how easily humans are able to disagree. Learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the many empires who conquered this geographical area over the centuries, and seeing all the walls that have been erected to separate people are just some examples illustrating the disputes in this area.

There are also some silly (subjectively characterized) examples of people not getting along. Take, for example, the “immovable ladder:”


This is a picture I snapped of a ladder sitting below a window above the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulture in Jerusalem. I know that I will not get all the facts right here, but this is a great example of our humanity on display.

Apparently this ladder was placed beneath the window so that monks who lived in the church hundreds of years ago could come and go after the doors had been locked. (A Muslim family who holds the keys to the church locks and unlocks the doors.) Nobody uses the ladder any longer, but the reason why it remains is hilarious.

There are six different groups (or denominations) who lay claim to the church. They are Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Roman Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac Orthodox—quite the diverse group actually.  So the clergy from each of these groups perform their rituals, one behind the other, throughout the day. You can also see the way that each tradition decorates (or does not decorate) their particular space as you move from one area to another. Notice how one section is plain and then the next is ornately decorated:




The problem is that for any part of the shared areas to be changed, all six groups have to agree to the change. This never happens; which leads us back to the ladder. It was placed there well over a hundred years ago-possibly several hundred-in a shared space. Even though is has no use and looks goofy (again, subjective), the ladder remains because humans can’t agree.

Not only does an unused ladder randomly remain, but there have also been occasions of fist-fighting between the different denominations within the church. And we’re talking about THE LOCATION WHERE JESUS GAVE HIS LIFE FOR US. (That’s the first time I’ve ever used-all-caps-to-yell in a post—and I kind of liked it.) Yes, even those who occupy the very space where the Prince of Peace gave up his life can’t get their shtuff together.

So if your church does not have six or more squabbling factions, is not cared for by a Muslim family, and does not appear to have an identity crisis as you move from one room to another, then maybe you don’t have it so bad after all.

2 thoughts on “You Think Your Church Has Problems?!?

  1. Hey Pastor Stephen! I read this post not realizing it was you! Then I clicked the link in the Celebration and realized I had already read this post from my WordPress Feed. I have to say that you really hit home with silliness of quite a few disputes! Blessings! Donna


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