This weekend, I was struck by a news story reporting a fight near the top of Mount Everest between climbers and their Nepalese sherpas. A brawl at more than 25,000 feet, close to the summit (29,029 feet)? You’ve gotta be kidding me.
I’ve hiked Mt. Whitney and know what conditions are like at around 14,500…and the thought of doing that on Mt. Everest is almost nauseating. Even worse, the thought of hikers brawling with the smartest, most experienced, and most resourceful hikers on the mountain—those present only to help them—is ridiculous.
One would think the conditions alone would bring everyone together. One would think cooler heads would prevail and perspective maintained when it’s a matter of life and death.
When the flesh takes over…we sometimes forget who we are, where we are, and what we’re doing.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I’ve seen church leadership teams behave just as insanely. I’ve seen church leadership teams risk the church’s future by fighting in the midst of challenges that demand teamwork and sacrifice from all involved. It’s when everything is going well, or when the church is in the midst of a major transition or God-challenge that Satan often creates a dust-up…when the most damage can happen. Rather than recognize the stakes and the spiritual warfare at play, the flesh takes over, people get hurt, and the congregation gets the bill for years to come. It’s often on Everest that churches begin to die.
I will say there is more fighting in the flatlands. Churches not trekking anywhere fight over the leftover grits and water. However, churches fighting on Everest are risking death and the well-being of all who depend on them. They are tempting God who called them to that journey.
Fighting when the stakes are that high betrays three things:
- A lack of reverence for the mountain you’re climbing.
- A lack of regard for the life and well-being of one another.
- A lack of regard for those below impacted by the fight.
Whenever the church is really heading somewhere “risky,” resolve there be no fighting on Everest. Don’t avoid discussing things passionately—or dealing with things that really have to be dealt with. After all, no one gets to the top of Everest without some adverse weather. However, do not make your own adverse conditions, and remember getting to the top makes a lot of petty disagreements disappear. If you still have them after you get to the top, talk about them when you get back down.
Fighting on Everest is a foolish game for those who don’t realize how fragile we are higher elevations. The answer isn’t to stay in the flat-lands and avoid the trek. We are called to pilgrimage. The answer is a trekking in a way that honors God in all conditions. When the tempter dares us at 29,000 feet, we recognize it for what it is, and refuse to put ourselves, our fellow hikers, and the well-being of those God has put under our spiritual care at risk.
Let’s hike wisely.