Aren’t there legitimate secondary or tertiary reasons to divide from a local church? That is essentially the first question I get asked whenever I talk about church divisions or that the Bible never calls Christians to divide. The only time it calls for division is when you’re dividing from the false teachers because the good news message of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the grave is on the line. That said, Google tells me we have around 200 Christian denominations in the United States and 45,000 worldwide—surely, they can’t all be wrong?
This is a sort of rambling look-back at the last two years and an encouragement for Christians to pause and reconsider outside of their circumstances and by looking at the broader picture. This look-back begins early in 2020, when society underwent a change akin to a pressure cooker.
For those who don’t know, a pressure cooker is a sealed pot that uses pressurized steam forcing food to cook faster. It’s great because the elements in the pot are all forced to cook together to create something that is a unique blend of the different flavors. Thing is, too much pressure and the pot can cause catastrophic damage. It’s so much pressure that you have to slowly release the steam so that you can manually open the pot.
That happened to all of us in 2020.
During a seemingly bad situation, it’s hard to see the better. Seeing the better in the situation or in those around us is hard. I’m not talking about wishful thinking or silver linings. Like, when sick, thinking, “oh, I’ll get better in four days” or “at least I’m not dead!”.
Even During Tough Times, Things Are Actually Better
“Better” is a comparison word. It only works when it’s put up against something else. That’s important.
The writer to the Hebrews wrote to believers who were going through a rough patch. To fix their situation, some thought they needed to jump ship. Some stopped coming together (Hebrews 10:25). Some probably feared to suffer (Hebrews 12:4). All of them needed encouragement (Hebrews 13:22) to stand firm (Hebrews 12:12). They needed this letter where the author pits the choices against each other to show the better.
Not a better imaginable situation. Not a silver lining. Rather a re-aligning of their thinking.
Hey, remember when I wrote that mad long article about the local church? I casually mentioned that the right church holds to scripturally correcting its members. I never really explained what I meant by that, so people had questions. Questions like “what does it mean that a church corrects its members?” Or “what does church discipline look like?” Or how does church discipline work? And, does church discipline work at all? I even got “who is allowed to carry out church discipline and why?” Good questions all but, I’ll take a step back to work through the rationale with another crazy long article. Audio to come soon.
The church today is known by her division. She’s gotten a reputation. Maybe social media makes it seem worse than it is, but that doesn’t matter.
That said, this doesn’t mean that all divisions are wrong. Paul, noting the divisions in ancient Corinth (1 Cor 11:18) pointed out that through divisions they would identify their true working Christians (1 Cor 11:19). Indeed, in Romans 16:17, Paul both warns about division and then encourages it in the same verse!
So, what should the church do? In seeking to be known by her love (John 13:35) should the church pursue unity at all costs? When, if ever, is it right to divide?