In the June 27th edition of The Sampson Independent, the headline read as follows: “Smith Chapel wins court decision over AME Zion.” The truth of the matter is nobody won.
The main issue in this court case was who owns the rights to the property of the church building and the land. Does it belong to the congregation or to the denomination.
Both sides profess to be followers of Jesus Christ and His word. And both sides must know or should have known that they were being watched by many, both the saved and the unsaved.
Both sides lose because it appears that neither side took into account what the Lord says about this issue and both sides failed to pay attention to the cliché that says what would Jesus do.
AME Zion sued this small congregation for the property and this makes them a loser when you consider the Word of God in I Corinthians 6:1-2 which says, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to the law before the unjust and not before the saints. Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest of matters.” AME Zion went against the word of God when they filed suit against Smith Chapel. By doing so, AME Zion has shown itself unworthy to judge anything. Thus bringing into question the ability of any of its pastors to rightly divide the word of God.
I Corinthians 6:5-7, the Lord says the entire court proceedings were a shame. The believers of this community are saying it silently, but God is saying it loudly. God goes so far as to say there is fault in both Smith Chapel and AME Zion for going to court one against another and that one of them should have backed down and let the other win. Clearly Jesus Christ would say to both of them the same thing he told Satan — “Have you not read.”
On the flip side, Smith Chapel also failed to abide by the words of Jesus Christ when he said in Matthew 5:40, “…if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” Smith Chapel was compelled by Christ to let AME Zion have the property and trust in God that he would provide them a place to assemble and worship. But at the same time there is too much emphasis on the building and on the property in all of our churches. Many of our churches, like Smith Chapel, have lost sight of what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:23, “the hour cometh and now is when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” I wonder if the Father will seek for any true worshippers who tangle over property as their means of worship?
Over the years Smith Chapel has been good for AME Zion and over the years, AME Zion has been good for Smith Chapel. Both have been instrumental in the saving of souls and in the spiritual growth of said souls.
With regards to this court case, both sides had good intentions, but neither side can have it both ways. Smith Chapel cannot desire to break away from the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and still call themselves Methodists. AME Zion cannot want to control the church property while at the same time continue to keep this small congregation in financial bondage with its stringent financial assessment obligations.
Both sides, however can become winners.
Smith Chapel, should this ruling stand on appeal, can become a winner if it first asks God for forgiveness for disobeying His word and places all of its focus on following the Word of God when and if it restructures and reorganizes the church.
AME Zion can become a big winner if they spiritually discern what God is saying to it. AME Zion should redefine and downsize itself. If the denomination truly wants to be know as “The Freedom Church” it must give all of its churches the financial freedom to serve the needs of their respective communities by reducing the number of churches in the same geographical locations and by reducing the financial burdens they place on each church. But most importantly, AME Zion must align itself more closely with the Word of God and all of the pastors of AME Zion must come to grips with who they are really serving — the Bishops and presiding elders or God Himself.
Under the above scenarios both sides win and perhaps more people will be saved and more people will have respect for the church. But as of now, everybody loses because if the truth be told, this case was never about property it was and is about money. The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. Both sides will forever be losers if they let this evil overtake them.
This entire situation sheds light on what Jesus said in Luke 18:8 when he wondered, “When the Son of Man cometh to earth, shall He find faith on the earth. In its context, Jesus was wondering if He would find anyone trusting and abiding by His Word.
Pastor Gilbert Owens
KOG Ministries Church