Anatomy of a Church Split
Fifth, include competent mediators early on, especially when it's clear that internal efforts at reconciliation aren't working. Proverbs 11:14 says, "In a multitude of counselors there is safety."Mediators should step in early on, as soon as it becomes obvious that internal efforts to bring resolution are unfruitful. Our problem wasn't that we didn't seek outside help; rather, we waited too long. By the time we reached out for help from others, the combative members were adamant that only their solution was acceptable, and they refused to include mediators.
Sixth, remember that God is sovereign over his church. The story of Joseph is a lesson for us. When reckoning day finally came for Joseph's brothers after years of concealing their sin against their brother, Joseph confronted them with this powerful insight into God's dealings with him and them: "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" (Gen 50:20). Evil never has the last word in God's universe, or in his church. This is true even of church splits. Deception, gossip, slander, rebellion, pride, jealousy, strife—evils that can divide Christians, split churches, and sometimes send pastors packing—ultimately, and without exception, are meant for good by our sovereign God. Out of this dilemma at Grace Fellowship, the Holy Spirit has given birth to a thriving new congregation filled with people who joyously worship God and love each other. I had the privilege of worshipping at this church recently and left thinking, Only God could do something like this! The passing of time will reveal God's wonderful handiwork in trying circumstances.
As for me, my family and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where I've embarked on an exciting church planting adventure. I'm still healing from my wounds, and I'm still able to draw valuable lessons from my experiences at Grace Fellowship Church. I'm thrilled that God is using this negative experience in my life to prepare me to work in another part of his vineyard.
If your church is surrounded by storm clouds, don't fret. Though storms arise in churches, they don't have to leave devastating results in their wake. There are always warning signs that storms are approaching. Recognize these signs, respond to them in prayer and with godly wisdom, and leave the rest to God. The church belongs to his Son, the Bridegroom, and nothing in heaven or on earth will thwart his purpose to present his bride without spot or wrinkle at the last day.
Emmitt Cornelius Jr. is a church planter in Atlanta, Georgia.
Copyright © 2012 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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