When a Church is Divided
I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church… (1 Corinthians 11:18 NLT)
As a twenty three year old, I was excited about the new ministry assignment into which I was walking. My wife and I looked forward to the hopes and promises of ministry in a well-respected church filled with people who had welcomed us warmly.
Then we attended their annual business meeting.
To be fair, it wasn’t a horrid display of carnality. Not at all. But neither was it comforting or peaceful. There was an obvious tension in the room as the pastor alone stood up front, graciously, but with some degree of insecurity, facing scrutinizing questions that sounded more like accusations.
I thought to myself: “Is this what church is all about?”
Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, directly and authoritatively addressed their issues of division. With a father’s love – and the responsibility that accompanies it – Paul confronted the subtle, yet destructive mindset of those who “sow discord among the brethren.”
Anytime you have more than one person in a church you have the potential for disunity. But unity is a cornerstone upon which the church is built.
Unity must be prioritized and protected in order for the church’s effectiveness to be optimized.
There are two ways to maintain unity:
1. Unity is easy when we walk in agreement.
Agreement is fun for everybody, because everyone WANTS to move in the same direction. “You want a choir? So do I!” “You want me to teach a class? I was just praying about doing that!”
Agreement is wonderful, and can be both an encouragement and confirmation of what God is doing among His people.
The problem is that you won’t ALWAYS agree about EVERYTHING. So, then, how do you maintain unity when there is a difference of opinion (dis-agreement)?
2. In the absence of agreement, the only way to protect unity is to walk in submission.
Many churches are stalled at the crossroads of differing opinions. And typically the decision comes down to a “king of the mountain” approach, where only the strong survive. The one with the most sway wins.
Many years ago I learned the value and freedom of submission. Realizing that God speaks and moves through authorities in my life, I pre-decided that, whenever I came to the crossroad of differing opinions, I would practice the principle of submission.
Here’s how that works for me, when I am at that crossroad:
1. I ask myself, “In this particular situation, who is the authority? Who is bearing the greater burden of responsibility for the outcome of this decision?”
2. If the other person is the recognized authority, my already established spirit of submission allows me to support the decision that they make. I may speak into the process, but I follow their lead. I don’t separate myself from the person, or their decision. As far as I’m concerned, the decision was “ours.”
3. If I am the one that carries the greater burden of responsibility as the authority in a specific situation, then I lean toward others, gaining as much perspective and wisdom as possible; knowing that, ultimately, the weight of that decision is mine to bear. Beyond getting wisdom from other people, I am most determined to hear the voice of God.
Being a man under authority is what allows me the privilege of having authority.
This principle of submission is a master key, unlocking tremendous blessing in your church, in your marriage, and your place of business.
Today I choose to submit myself to You and to the authorities You have given to me.
I also readily accept the weight of responsibility that You have given me, so that I can lead others to places of breakthrough and blessing.
Help me to lead well, as I strive to follow You.