A sad situation in Hobson

Published 8:44 pm Monday, August 23, 2010

Especially among the Hollywood glitterati, there’s a school of thought holding that all publicity is good. When the media is talking about your latest run-in with the law, your name and face are still in the news, ensuring that people will remember you and, theoretically, buy your latest CD or movie.

For the village of Hobson and historic Macedonia Baptist Church, the news has all been bad lately, and there’s no upside to the situation. Both the church and the community it supports have been overexposed on the front page lately, and it hasn’t been because of improved quality of life there or because of the outreach that church members have done nor the souls that have been won to Christ.

The news has all been about a feud that has divided the community against itself, one that is destroying the witness of the church where it festers. Police have been called out to church services, locks have been repeatedly changed and church members have been in court filing civil complaints against one another, their pastor and the church trustees.

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Meanwhile, as our website makes readily apparent, Internet voyeurs cannot help but follow — and share — the story of an imploding church and a village in meltdown. As of Monday night, three stories about the problems in Hobson are among the top-five emailed stories on the new Suffolk News-Herald website. In other words, the dirty laundry got aired in public, and then the neighbors started bringing their friends by the house so they could see what’s hanging on the clothesline.

While discussing the situation with someone on Monday, he said to me, “The devil does some of his best work in church.” Clearly, that’s true. What better way to ruin a church’s testimony and ability to do good work in a community than to set its members against one another? What better way to interfere with the spread of the Gospel — the good news of Jesus Christ’s grace, love, humility and sacrifice — than by stoking the fires of pride, anger, hatred and unforgiveness in people who claim to be His followers?

I’m not here to take sides on the issues that are tearing at the fabric of a small Baptist church in Hobson. I don’t know the guilty parties and would be hesitant to cast stones at them if I thought I did. It is easy to see, however, that the members of this church have lost sight of its true purpose. Macedonia Baptist and all of the other churches that constitute the corporate church of Christ are there to celebrate and magnify His glory, not that of any pastor, any deacon, any trustee or any layperson.

A church should influence the community it serves. Those that meet their calling serve as missionaries of God’s grace and love. Judging from recent events, however, and the schism that seems to be growing in Hobson, Macedonia has, indeed, been an influence on its host community, but not a positive one — or even a Christ-like one.

I ask that Christians in the area join me in praying for this church and this community. As a journalist, I can’t avoid writing about the situation. As a Christian, I can’t help but mourn it.