The Wounded Body – Division

Posted in uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on July 4, 2008
One of the greatest problems in the Body of Christ is that of division. As a pastor and student of God’s Word, I take this very seriously. When God raises up leadership for the church it is for the purpose of unity (See Ephesians 4), but instead, so many local churches suffer from a lack of unity. Notice the issue here is “division” and not “denomination”. While I do wish we could be more unified on a broader scale and maybe have fewer denominations, the truth is, denominations are not all bad. Most of them were started for the purposes of fellowship, common mission, and unity. Some of them may have adopted an “us against them” attitude since their inception but in general, denominations are cooperative in nature.
We Like Sheep…
The problem of division primarily resides within the local church. In fact, it goes all the way down to the interpersonal relationships between one church member and another. Sadly, where two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus, more often than not there is division, and they are paying no attention to Jesus who is there with them. What do we expect? We are like sheep right? Sheep are brought to a pasture. As they start grazing on the grass they start moving away from one another. They are only interested in the food that’s in front of them and they will literally walk off a cliff if that’s where their food path leads them. The shepherd has to keep an eye out for them to keep them together and not wander off into danger.
…Have Gone Astray
Members of a local church are the same (and I mean all members including leaders and including myself). Without guidance and correction, we begin to spread out. We begin to lose our sense of common purpose and unity. We get too absorbed in our own self interests and self preservation (our own tuft of grass if you will). If someone offends us, we offend back rather than seek the reconciliation for which God Himself has made us His Ambassadors. A member wanders too far astray and we keep nurturing ourselves and neglect our fellow members. This puts too much distance between us. Two members can be a part of the same church body and never speak to one another. This ought not be.
The Lamb Was Sure To Go
There was once this little girl named Mary. Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow. I don’t know if you know this story, but interestingly enough, everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go. Okay, enough with the poem. I bring it up to say that the more we follow Jesus, the less we have a problem with division. Think of the previous scene with all the sheep grazing and following their own interests until they are spread out all over the hillside. Then imagine a scene where all the lambs want to follow the Shepherd. Sure they will grab some food for themselves here and there (you know, their basic needs), but their primary interest is in being close to the Shepherd until they are baaing and bleeting and surrounding Him. Sheep are side by side, bumper to bumper. There’s a huge circle of sheep with the Shepherd at the middle. This is the solution to division…each of us must follow closer and closer to Jesus until we are velcroed to each other’s wool. Wherever Jesus goes, we should be willing to go. The closer we are to Him, the closer we are to each other.
Let Not All Lead
Some of the problem comes from the general membership, but I say the large majority of the problem comes from the leadership of the churches who are leading the others astray. For too long the leaders have set themselves up as the ones to look to for guidance. The pastor is almost as infallible as pope claims to be. The people can’t read their Bibles at home, they just rely on the pastor to feed them. The pastor gets high on the sense of dependence upon him. The people look to the pastor as THE Shepherd. The pastor supplants the Shepherd with himself as a sheep in Shepherd’s clothing. Instead, the pastor should merely be the sheep bleeting the loudest that we need to get closer to the Shepherd. The pastor should be the one saying, “Hey look, there’s some room right up here…come one! You can do it!” I know that’s an oversimplification of pastoral responsibility, but it’s better than the egotistic, power hungry, “have your best life now, but not until I’ve got mine first” leadership of some of the churches today.
At some point, each member of each local church must ask themselves if they are contributing to the unity or the disunity of the church. We always see someone else as the problem and need to realize that if we aren’t actively being reconciled to God and to people then we are part of the problem. Our love for Christ needs to be so strong that we leave the good tuft of grass for someone else because being closer to Jesus is more important than in what sort of field we may find ourselves.
“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
The eager children cry;
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,”
The teacher did reply.

7 Responses

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  1. Will said, on July 4, 2008 at 2.22 pm

    Having served in 4 churches with moderate to severe financial issues, one of the greatest weaknesses I have seen is how the church allows money to influence everything that it does. Needless to say, the lack of money is also one of the causes of conflict as well, with the “money” people, like Trustees, the Financial Secretary and the Treasurer, having defacto veto power over ministry initiatives.

  2. Brett said, on July 4, 2008 at 10.44 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about division in the church… and especially in the local body. If our local churches are fighting each other of the color of the walls, what songs to be singing, or which Bible tanslation is best then we’ve left the mission Jesus passed on to us in a basket on the front steps.

    And I understand where you’re coming from about pastors and the need for humility as a sheep ourselves. But at the same time we are to watch over the flock, and when division begins cropping up we have to step in and defuse it before it ignites and leaves the church rebuilding what it once had. The ploys of Satan are coy and as pastors we have to shepherd the flock entrusted to us as one who will give an account.

    That said, not all division is bad. Sometimes God might reveal division in a local church that helps move out some people who He is trying to show the door. Division also might arise as an opportunity for clarity. The mission becomes more clear and some people lose interest in really chasing it. I recently had a family leave our launch team because they weren’t ready to be that involved in a church. They liked to sit and soak. I pleaded with them to keep going because it could be a growth edge for them but they chose their tuft of grass over being close to the Shepherd. But they needed to go for the health of our body.

    Division can also be ultimately good because it forces clarity. Take the recent theological discussions, er conversations, that have clarified theological positions and seemingly forced us to reaffirm the classic doctrines of the Bible. (Or I guess if you’re swimming in the other pool, to reimagine classic doctrine.)

    Good post, my comment is much to long but I will keep reading.

  3. Helen Fuller said, on July 6, 2008 at 6.54 am

    I am blessed to attend a church that has building community has a primary focus. As a multi-cultural church we face the challenge of building bridges between people from differing backgrounds and cultures. One of the key things I have learnt over the years is how not to take offence. We can be so quick to react but if we make the choice not to take offence there is less cause for division. If we make the choice to forgive there is less cause for division. If we chose to prefer others over ourselves there is less cause for division. If our aim is to build the kingdom of God we will do all we can to strengthen community and deal with division.

  4. Creitz said, on July 6, 2008 at 2.15 pm

    Thanks to Will and Brett for your concern for the church. I definitely think we need to have leaders who will set the example of how to be unified. I see leadership in the church primarily as the pace setters. They need to model unity and show others how to respond to conflict. I’m certainly not suggesting to bury conflict but to bring it out in the open and deal with it in the love and peace of Christ. Thanks again for your comments.

    Thanks to you Helen for giving us an example of a church striving for unity…there are a lot out there. It’s not like any church says, “we want division in the church.” It’s just that so often the division comes upon the leaders and overwhelms them before they really know what to do about it. Let’s pray for our churches. The Spirit of God in our midst is the answer to the problems.

  5. bigkafka said, on July 6, 2008 at 8.09 pm

    Nathan – I got a little frustrated with your post because you didn’t define what you mean by division.

    Conflict is great. It is an opportunity. Of course, we mess it up — probably primarily because of pride, we consider that conflict means we must be right …

    I really appreciate what you wrote about denominations and about super-star pastors…
    I guess the pastor should be the sheep with the bell šŸ™‚ – I’m starting my bell bearing denomination….

    thanks for the post.
    When is the next one ?

  6. kristarella said, on July 6, 2008 at 10.41 pm

    Thanks for your post Nathan. Challenging as usual.

    There’s some division that is necessary, while to outsiders it might look like a denominational divide, really it’s an “are they teaching the truth of the bible” divide.

    Within our own church it’s always a challenge to love and serve everyone, not just the ones we know well.

    “Two members can be a part of the same church body and never speak to one another. This ought not be.”
    This one is difficult, mainly because it’s not in my nature to a) talk a lot or b) talk to people I don’t know. Reading, praying, serving supper… those things, those active things seem easier than just getting along-side people.

    Re: post formatting, I did find this post easier to follow with the subheadings.

    Cheers šŸ™‚

  7. Larry Temple said, on July 10, 2008 at 6.19 pm

    Nathan, here is an Article I thought you might find interesting along these lines..

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