Jump Start # 2156
Galatians 5:15 “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”
Why do churches split and divide? It happens. It happens all too often. I saw a list a long time ago of more than 25 splits within our fellowship. Why? Let’s begin by understanding what we are referring to. If a congregation is getting too large for their facility or they want to begin a work in a new area and this is the common agreement and everyone is on board, this is not a split. Although technically, the church divided, it was planned, designed and a welcoming thing to plant a congregation where there isn’t one.
What we are looking at today is not a happy occasion. Folks are upset. Fingers are pointed. A few leave and begin another work, often very close to the place they left. The two groups have nothing to do with each other. Bad blood and ill feelings remain for a long time, often generations.
The recipe for division and splits sure existed within the N.T.
- In Acts 6, the neglected Hellenistic Jews could have easily split the Jerusalem church and started a church of their own.
- In Romans 14, the meat eating brethren could have divided from those who refused to eat meats. A meat eating church and a veggie church could have started.
- In 1 Corinthians the elements of division existed on many pages. They did everything except physically divide. It could have been done.
- Our Galatian passage shows that the churches in that region could have divided over Jewish leanings and Gentile leanings.
- In Revelation 3, the faithful few in Sardis could have left the dead church and started their own.
All the elements were there for division, however they didn’t divide. They were often divided in heart and the apostles had to unite them and remind them about who they were.
Why do churches split? There is no one specific answer. There are many reasons. Some times it no reason at all, other than hurt feelings and personalities that can’t work together. Misunderstandings, lacking patience, being too quick to condemn, all contribute to a spirit of wanting to pull out and start a new work.
If someone is teaching error and causing a person to violate their conscience in order to worship, it is time for some discussion. Maybe the teacher/preacher doesn’t full understand. Maybe you can help them to see things that they haven’t thought about. But if that door is closed and they continue to introduce things that you feel are wrong, then you have to make the decision to leave.
Some folks leave much too soon and much too often. They leave over things that they shouldn’t. They are not invited to a baby shower. Feelings hurt, they leave. New carpet is installed and they can’t stand the color. Upset, they leave. They don’t like who is invited to come and preach. So, they leave. Some, it seems live out of a suitcase because they are always leaving. Their history is one of leaving. In a large city, it is not uncommon to have a family or two that has been a part of just about every congregation in town. They leave one place upset, unhappy only to find a new place. They are so happy with the new place. But within a few months, something happens and all of that changes. Off they go to yet another congregation. With them are the sad stories of how terrible the last place was. Around and around the city they travel. This congregation, then that one. Their poor children never feel connected and grow up with a selfish and sour taste in their mouth from all the church hopping that has gone on.
Yet, for others, they stay too long. They are part of a dying church. It is their hopes to turn things around. But all the work and all the efforts are met with deaf ears and hearts that are content to be dead. The stale, lifeless worship drains all the passion out of the family. They hang on. They stay and stay until one by one all of their children fall away from the Lord and mom and dad become indifferent, critical, judgmental and dead. They have stayed too long. The words of Joshua, “As for me and my house,” didn’t sink in with this family. Their noble efforts of trying to turn a dead church resulted in their own spiritual death. There comes a time when one must pull the stakes and leave for your own salvation. If you are dying and do nothing, death is certain. It’s time for action and if it isn’t going to happen where you are, then it may be time to look elsewhere.
Now, for some, because of distance, there are no other options. They don’t live in a large city where there are a dozen congregations to drive to. For them, remaining is about the only option, other than trying to start another congregation. This often becomes two struggling small congregations in a town that can barely support one. All across this country we find this picture. Little towns with a couple of congregations that will have nothing to do with each other. Both have to have a building and a preacher and neither can afford it.
Why do churches split? The answer is because we often have a hard time getting along with each other. The number one reason why people switch jobs is not because of money or advancement, it’s because they can’t stand their co-workers. Toxic environments exist. Every year parents pull their kids out of one school for another because of the environment. Folks move, not because they need to but because they can’t stand their neighbors. Is it any wonder that some of this spills into the church. Too much of self and not enough of the team spirit causes one to be overly sensitive, touchy and ready to jump at the first moment.
I have preached at places where another church building was nearly in sight of where I was. No one from the other place would show up. They would as soon die as to do that. Yet both congregations were trying to reach the community and tell the world about Jesus. The world wonders why there are two of the same so close to each other. I knew a funeral director that got mad at another funeral director. So a new funeral home was built right beside the other one. They stand today, side by side, competing against each other. The community knows of the feud. If you use one funeral home it’s a statement against the other. Childish. Not necessary. Silly. And, exactly what the world sees and thinks when they see two congregations trying to compete against each other in the same area.
Are all divisions wrong? No. Sometimes it is necessary for the perseveration of the truth and to continue following God’s pattern. The call to come out from among them, and choose you this day who you will serve rings loud and true in this day of foggy teaching and prompting the ideas of false teachers rather than standing with the Lord and His apostles. Too many young preachers are being swayed by the academic superstars of today who deny common plain Biblical teachings. Their blogs are consumed and found filtering into Sunday’s sermons. Without thinking things out and thinking things through, they are following the pied pipers who are leading them away from Christ. I see what books others are recommending. I see what they suggest others read. I see what they are drawn to. Dark clouds are forming in the skies and they are blinded by their rapturous fascination with these religious super stars. Duds they are in my book. They are selling poison and killing faith. This current path that many are on will lead to more and more divisions. The blogs of error will rip the church as unsuspecting minds try to present ideas and ways that are not true to God’s book.
The study of church history, reformation and restoration, shows that some splits and divisions led folks to leaving error and finding the true pattern that is found in the Bible. In this, division was good for those who followed the word of God.
Will divisions and splits ever end? Yes, when Jesus comes. Until then, they are a part of our culture and a part of our make up. Many could be avoided. Many surround nothing more than personalities and the inability to get along and forgive. Others, are doctrinally based.
Understand the difference between personal conviction and collective action. There are some things that I do that I would not say others have to do. I don’t preach without a tie. That’s me. Does every preacher have to wear a tie? No. Do I frown upon those who don’t? Never. It’s me. There are some songs in the song book that I do not like. There’s nothing wrong with them except I don’t like the tune and I don’t like the words. Do I sing them? Yes. Sometimes our troubles come from trying to make my personal convictions your personal convictions. I force my ways upon you. I believe that my way is the only way. This is why eating meats or not eating meats was such a big deal in Rome. We all have zillions of things like that. If a husband and wife both work, can they use one check to contribute or must they each put in their own separate contribution? I know folks who fuss over that. The list is long of things that we feel ought to be a certain way, even though the Bible doesn’t specifically say. When we start demanding this of others, trouble brews. This is why “work out your own salvation,” rings so true.
We are converted to Christ, not a congregation. Our loyalty is to the Lord. We need to influence, encourage, teach and show the N.T. way. As long as we can do that, we need to work, help and be committed to a group that has that same spirit. If the time comes that we must make the choice of remaining and violating our conscience, or leave, the decision will be obvious. We must leave. Work for unity. Be diligent to preserve it. Hide yourself behind the cross. Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Christ.
Division is ugly. Splits hurt. Do what you can to work through things without violating your conscience or dying on the vine.