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Home > 2012 > December Online Only > Anatomy of a Church Split

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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.

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Related Topics:ConflictCrisisCriticismEmotionsUnity
Posted: December 10, 2012

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Displaying 4–8 of 13 comments

Michelle C. Russell

January 07, 2013  10:30pm

Thank you for writing such a thorough article Pastor Emmitt. As a former member of GF who was gone before the church split, I was very disheartened by what I saw happen. Somehow I was raised in GF and saw many of the flaws that you have highlighted in the article. I think the shame comes in when Christians fail to embrace vision that is grounded in the mission and gospel message that Jesus preached which calls for perpetual growth and change to attract new believers to the church in the name of holding onto comfort and tradition. GF became a challenging place for me to worship when I found that other believers were placing legalism over grace, and tradition over innovation in Christ. Somewhere along the way, GF got away from being the chuch that greeted people with Maranatha and love and instead became a church where status reigned in place of love. I still love my GF family and am thankful that one day the love and grace of Christ will heal the rift in fellowship that occurred.

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EC

January 07, 2013  9:43pm

Again I just want to say how deeply sorry I am for the destruction I have caused at "Grace Fellowship". I wasn't called to Pastoring. I only accepted the job because it was offered to me. I will, from now on, wait on the Lord.

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AJ

January 05, 2013  9:16pm

How does it feel knowing you have lead and destroyed a happy home(GF)? May God have mercy on you.

EC

January 02, 2013  9:32pm

Perhaps the article wasn't clear. The new church came out of the split. Secondly, Grace Fellowship did practice a plural leadership model. Sorry for confusion.

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Randy Singleton

January 02, 2013  6:30pm

I wish Mr. Cornelius would have explained the details of the transition from his resignation to GF becoming a loving, healthy church. What plans were created and executed to bring about such a marvelous result? What vision did the new leader articulate that Mr. Cornelius either ignored, or didn't see? Personally, I'm not a fan of the single-pastor model. Too many people place a beloved human leader between them and their relationship with Christ. Then if that leader starts wandering from the Word of God, so does that person. Or if that person retires, or moves away, others leave with them. The old GF situation sounds like one that could have been handled the following way. 1. Allow Pastor Doug to keep his "paster emeritus" title, but no voting rights and no more giving sermons. 2. Or how about some unity? Create a plural-pastor model. Senior Pastor Cornelius, a pastor in training, and Pastor emeritus Doug. 3. Exhort complaining leaders to serve more. Refuse? Ordain others

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