Your church should be split.
Crazy, I know.
Now, you know I’m not talking about a fiery business meeting where red-carpets face off against blue-carpets. Or when political operations are formed within the church in favor of Deacon Sam vs. Deacon Don. Or civil wars caused by rival Mary Kay sellers.
Churches split way too easily these days over ridiculous matters. Obviously, we all get a good laugh thinking about churches splitting over the color of carpets – that is, until we find ourselves in a similar circumstance where the pastor has recommended a book by an author we detest or seems to be teetering too close to the chasm of Calvinism (abandon all hope, ye who enter there). Or perhaps we’re ready to abandon ship and lead an army out with us over the fact that the music pastor has too many guitars – or too few.
Lest you think I’m throwing shade only on the older generations who tend to split over issues like the above, let me state that millennials are just as guilty. We may not formally split a church, but we very easily hop from church to church until we find one that fits our hipster music taste or has a pastor with a cool haircut.
It’s human nature – we like to hang out with people like us. We find community with like-minded people. Latte-toting millennials hang out at a church with a coffee shop in the foyer. Older folks who like simple things find themselves at home in a small country church that holds to the “good ole days.”
We want what we like. And we will do anything to make sure our preferences are followed in our church.
We’re willing to steamroll over anyone in our way – including our pastors, parents, older and wiser mentors, and ultimately Jesus Himself. You know, the Head of the Church. The Sovereign of our assembly. The Chief Shepherd.
We forget so easily about Him in the mud-slinging fights that accompany too much change or too little at church. Paul, inspired by the Spirit of Christ, wrote against such practices in 1 Corinthians.
So in one sense church “splits” – that is formally or informally splitting from a gathering because of personal preferences – is sin and should be avoided.
But in a different sense, every church should have a “split.” A split caused because the church has refused to formally split into two because they love each other – despite their differences.
Too many churches look like homogeneous globs of godly good-doers. You walk in Sunday morning and everyone looks the same. Everyone is from the same country and same ethnic group within that country. Everyone votes the same. Everyone eats similar food. Everyone shakes hands the same way. Everyone listens to the same music. Everyone has the same entertainment and dress standards.
Nothing is wrong with that – if that reflects the community the church is in. Perhaps that’s how it will be in rural Kansas where the population is 100% white and 100% conservative (‘Merica!). But in most places in America, particularly the South where I live, that’s not how the community is.
America is a diverse nation – which is something to celebrate this 4th of July (shoot off fireworks and try not to light your house on fire).
So our churches should reflect that diversity. If your community has a large percentage of African-Americans, why does the church not reflect that? If your town has a sizable immigrant population, where are some not in your assembly? Do you notice a lot of Hispanics at the grocery store but not in your pews? Do you see women with head coverings at the mall but have never dreamed of seeing someone stand up in church to talk about how they forsook that life for Jesus?
That’s a problem. You need more splits in your church.
Not just ethnic splits. Opinion splits. What I love about my church is that we have as many opinions as we have bodies in the auditorium. We have people more Calvinistic than Calvin and people who use his portrait as a dart board. We have people who like nothing more than listening to good organ music while on a jog and people who can drop the beat. We have people who share Fox News articles on Facebook and people who share New York Times articles.
Some would say we’re in danger of a church split. It certainly can’t be healthy to have such diverse opinions.
I say it’s actually a mark of a healthy church to have such diverse members (Hey Pastor Dever, can we add a tenth mark?).
Not diverse doctrinally (“Yeah, we got some Catholics, some Mormons, some theological liberals…and even a Muslim!”). But diverse on issues that good people differ on.
Many see this as a weakness. I see it as a strength. What glory is it to God if a bunch of people who look the same, vote the same, and think the same are unified? Any unsaved people could do that! Political parties can do that. Civic clubs can do that.
But what if a bunch of people who have totally different opinions and are from totally different backgrounds and like totally different things get together and call each other “brother” and “sister”? And love each other, even when they don’t agree?
That’s what I call a church.
A church that may be split on any given opinion. But a healthy church nonetheless.
Because only the work of God could bring such diverse people together in one body. And only God gets the glory when #neverTrump and #MAGA go to the same church. When TULIP and “Whosoever will” hug every Sunday. When “I love you” flows across the church atrium in many different languages. When people from every opinion, every culture, every tribe sing together, “Worthy is the Lamb!” Only God could be behind that!
Only God could keep a split church from splitting.