Have any of you ever been in a church that was horribly divided? How about a workplace? As far as I can remember, I do not believe that I have ever been a part of a church that was experiencing severe division but have certainly heard the sad stories of other churches that were. My work experience however, has certainly seen its share of divisions.
Our reading this morning takes us to 1 Corinthians 1 and as Paul begins this letter to the church in Corinth that was full of problems, the first one he chooses to highlight is their divisions. Verses 12 and 13 tell us that some in the church were claiming they were “of” certain influential individuals in the early church. Some claimed to be of Paul, Apollos, Peter or even Christ. Scripture does not tell how these divisions were manifesting themselves (though it may have something to do with who baptized some of them) but clearly this church was divided by favoritism and cliques that no doubt was negatively impacting their impact on the community.
Let’s fast forward to 2018 and ask how something similar could take place in a church today. Perhaps it could be some in the church that would hold a youth, assistant or even a radio/tv preacher in higher regard than the senior pastor at their church and consider that man to be their pastor or “leader”. Or if there is a change in the senior pastorate, some might try to hold on to the former pastor as their “real” pastor, and always try to compare to the new pastor with the former (favorite) pastor. Or it could be related to the different “camps” that exist amongst Independent Baptists. Some might consider themselves to have a strong allegiance to a college or group, while others hold strongly to a different camp with a slightly different set of standards or philosophy.
While there certainly is time for division when it comes to cardinal doctrines of the faith, we need to be careful not to let minor differences be a wedge in our church, leading to different cliques and groups in the church. Is it normal to want to fellowship with those who think like we do? Sure. But we shouldn’t look to only fellowship with those that look like and think exactly like we do. If we fall for this trap, our effectiveness for the cause of Christ will certainly be minimized, i.e. subtracted.