My degree from Olivet Nazarene University was in psychology. I knew I was going to be a pastor but I’d joke, “I wasn’t a religion major because I couldn’t afford the pocket protector” (it was a jab at my perception of the nerdy-ness of most religion majors). Truth was, sporting a big afro on my 105-pound frame, I was easily the biggest nerd on campus. My elevated nerdy-ness aside, the plan was to go to seminary all along: not because of the high cost of pocket protectors, I wanted a discipline outside of religion before heading off to Nazarene Theological Seminary (I still think that was a good plan, I’m not sure, if given the chance, I would be a psyc major again, maybe English, business management or even computer science, but I digress).
Following my time at seminary I was awarded an M.Div. or a Master of Divinity. My formal training title is Rev. Robert S. Prince Jr., M.Div. Don’t be too impressed. Honestly, I am not a “master” at all. These days my M.Div feels much more like a Master of Dividedness. Maybe more accurately, my degree should be a N.Div—Novice of Dividedness.
I am so incredibly saddened at divisions within churches. I am heartbroken over the reckless use of social media to demonize those with opposing views. I am dismayed that politics and masks have divided people. Worse than a couple of decades ago “worship wars” or two generations ago “carpet wars,” the divisiveness within today’s church is playing right into the Enemy’s slimy hands. Will the remnant of Christians that remain in the next generation look back on these years with disgust and say, “The body of Christ was divided over politics and masks? Masks? Seriously? Masks?!”
Every pastor I know has tried to navigate through these divisive waters. It’s as if we are in a contentious hurricane on a flimsy surf board. The task is not just “not easy,” it’s impossible. Often it feels like we are going it alone. Like Peter in the Sea of Galilee, some of my colleagues have sunk in this storm. The gale force winds of dissention were too much.
What’s my advice to the beleaguered and battle weary pastor? Listen to Jesus. Is he saying to you what he said to sinking Peter so long ago? Matthew recorded the events on the stormy Sea of Galilee. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). There has been plenty of times in stormy county of Genesee (my home county), Jesus has “reached out his hand and caught” me and said the something similar about my flimsy faith. Jesus will see us through this storm. Don’t doubt. Hold on to Jesus for dear life (literally). Grab ahold. Don’t let go. Jesus will keep your head above water, if you don’t let go. Make 1 Thessalonians 5:21 your survival tool: “Hold on to what is good.” All storms pass. This one will too. Just hold on to Jesus.