The Sin We Ignore: Splits and Division

One of the most ignored or tolerated sins of the church is the sin of SCHISMThe formal separation of a church into two churches, caused by differences in opinion or belief. I have been a part of splits and, let me tell you, they are messy. No, messy is too nice a word. They are downright destructive—demonic. And, sadly, both sides usually are convinced they are on God’s side.

Too often a disgruntled assistant pastor or lay leader feels he can do a better job than the pastor. He promotes his cause through gossip. Once his movement has enough steam he leads a coup against the senior pastor or starts a new congregation. Paul calls this “building on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom. 15:20) It is also called rebellion, divisiveness, self-promotion, pride, gossip and more.

The fruit of schism is broken relationships. I have seen families split into two over congregational divides. I have seen lifelong friendships come to a halt. That is the demonic part. A spirit of division disguises itself as righteousness or godly boldness. It feels right. You’re taking a stand. But rarely does the fruit of the split justify the pain it causes.

Yes, there are times to take a stand against a pastor or leader of a congregation. Sometimes, you might even need to warn people to leave:

  1. Sexual immortality or other chronic sins (theft, habitual dishonesty).

  2. False doctrine (to be clear, that means it goes against what mainstream evangelicalism considers broad orthodoxy, not just against your opinion).

  3. Cult-like tendencies of control over the lives of the members.

  4. Gross ineffectiveness—and, in this case, I would expect that you would have a group of elders who had already appealed to the ineffective senior leader.

Jesus Loves Unity

God puts a high price on unity. It was the thing that Yeshua asked the Father to establish in the body in John 17.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.(John 17:11)

Paul rebukes the Corinthians for establishing cliques, and equates division to destroying the temple of God! And then, he warns them about what God does to the person who destroys His temple (i.e. causes division):

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

What if two leaders simply can’t work together? It happens, as we will see with two of our heroes. Sometimes, it is even God’s way of moving someone out in a new direction. The question is: do you have the humility and love for the body to do it in a way that causes the least