Sunday, August 27, 2006

Disunity and Distrust

"Division in the church doesn't surprise us any more."
-- Joshua Harris

Photo Credit: John Curley

This morning, our senior pastor spoke about unity in the church from 1 Corinthians 1:10-14 (listen here on Tuesday). I've tried to summarize it here.

Disunity in the church is real. Unfortunately, it is more often used as a joke punchline than treated as a problem that Christians should try to resolve.

The symptoms of division at Corinth were quarrelling, separation, cliques, and being different in mind and judgment. While occasionally Christians must divide from other so-called believers, most of the division in today's church is motivated by sinful pride and petty issues.

Even more specifically, the believers in Corinth were dividing over identification with leaders: "I follow Paul. I follow Apollos. I follow Cephas. I follow Christ." This is strange because those leaders were not divided. They were friends and coworkers in the gospel.

The problem lies not in the "Paul, Apollos, Cephas" parts of those statements. The problem is the "I." The Corinthians had made their favorite preacher, the person who baptized them, or some other leader with whom they associated more important than Christ himself.

Paul believed this was such a serious issue that he wrote to them by the authority of Jesus Christ. What was his reasoning for correction? Christ was not divided. Paul was not crucified for them. No one was baptized into the name of Paul. Only through Jesus was salvation available, and only in Jesus should the identity of a Christian be firmly planted. The Corinthians had forgotten the gospel, and it led to division.

The solution, then, to division is to focus on the cross of Jesus Christ. His death unites all Christians together. We are united as a family, as brothers and sisters. If we forget the sacrifice of Christ, we will forget our family unity, and we will separate because of personal preference.

What shall we do? How can we make sure that the gospel continues to unify us? We should do the following consistently and with great effort:
  • Distrust our "dislikes." We must not let what we don't like about our churches lead to division. We must seek humility, talk to leadership if appropriate, and then trust God for the results.
  • Distrust our "favorites." We may like a particular style of music, liturgy, preacher, or area of ministry in the church. We must watch out that we don't find our identity in those things, but rather in the cross of Christ.
  • Root out bitterness and apathy in our relationships. Watch out for, confess, and seek reconciliation with the people who are most challenging to you.

From my experience, this message hits at the heart of many technical and media "conflicts," doesn't it? Disagreements with musicians, pastors, congregation members, other team members create disunity. Throughout this week, as a follow-up to the message, I'll be addressing issues related to unity in the church and media ministry.

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