(Imagine some Twilight Zone music is playing the background)
Church leaders hear a lot of voices. It's not the result of a personality disorder or a disconnect from reality. Everybody has an opinion about every thing and usually church leaders gets to hear them all. Leaders of shuttered churches typically listen to the wrong ones.
Church voices aren't necessarily in competition. But, because of the "halo effect", that is, our tendency to layer even harsh criticisms with sweet spiritual sounding rhetoric, or to justify even down right meanness with strong biblical or spiritual arguments, the volume often modulates to confusing levels. As a result, leaders have to sort through the din to find the right message. Since certain sounds resonate with greater clarity, loud and obnoxious are usually heard.
God speaks in the thunder and the lightening, the whirlwind and the storm. Still, He often guides leaders through the "still small voice", a personal word to the heart of the leader, the unseen hand of deep personal communion that guides and leads and directs. Henry Blackaby noted that God has historically spoken in five ways---through the Holy Spirit in all things, through the Bible, through prayer, through the church, and then in life circumstances. Whether quietly or in the tumult, His voice should define the cadence of things, the motion and compass settings of His people.
In shuttered churches, however, His voice was most often unheard, shouted down by the others, excluded from definitive processes. What is most important is often set aside for events, circumstances, or ideals that are simply urgent, or expedient, the voices screaming loudest at a given time. The shuttered churches are evidence of what happens when His people stop giving Him first place and allow some of the other screamers to occupy center stage. All too often the loudest mantra is something about "my church" when it should be a chorus of loving wonder about "His church". This is sad.
It's nothing new, leaders hearing a cacophony of voices. Moses listened to the voices as the Israelites whined about the harshness of the wilderness and wished to go back to their bondage in Egypt. All of the prophets had distinct Words from God but had to endure many voices of complaint and criticism because of their exile. Even Jesus had to listen to the loud voices of religious bigots closed to His liberating message. As did the great pioneers of faith in the Acts.
One day Peter, James, and John received an intimate glimpse of the Lord's glory on a mountaintop. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them in a cloud, and a voice from heaven declared, "This is my beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!" (Matthew 17:5). God spoke through the bright cloud covering to the three stalwarts of the early church Words to clarify their listening priorities. The Lord's voice was to be primary. Disciples were commanded to listen to Him!
On another occasion John saw a vision of the end. He communicated epistles to the seven churches of Revelation, often viewed as representative of the churches during the various stages of church history: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. They all conclude with a familiar command: "Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches." (see Rev. 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22). If this is a correct interpretation, every generation of church history has struggled with the voices problem, that is, listening to what the Spirit was saying to the churches.
One day the Sanhedrin commanded Peter and John to stop preaching the name of Jesus to the people of Jerusalem. Luke wrote it like this, "So, they called for them and ordered them not to preach or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But, Peter and John answered, Whether it's right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide" (Acts 4:18-19).