Having had a close-up view of a church split a number of years ago, I came to a few conclusions. One thing I discovered was that everything basically boiled down to two different groups -- the “haves” and the “have nots” – that were not willing to find common ground. It was those who preferred the “deeper things of God” (expressive worship, spiritual experience, etc) -- the “haves”, as in, “We have something from God that you don’t have” -- vs. those that preferred a more traditional style of worship and loved biblical teaching -- the “have nots”.
I had an excellent opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time both with the pastor and with one of the leaders of the “haves” group. The “haves” group was pushing for “all that God has for us.” They weren’t going to be denied… and didn’t want anyone else to miss out on “the deeper things of God”.
The other group felt just as strongly that these “radicals” were leading the church away from the pure Word of God. From a “have not” perspective, the “haves” were only concerned with experiencing the love of God and seeing the “manifestation” of His presence. The “have nots”, however, felt that the holiness and majesty of God was being overlooked.
The pastor, a gentle man and a true peacemaker, was caught in the middle. And while he truly tried to make both sides happy, he really wasn’t satisfying either group. And he was considered a milquetoast by both sides for not taking a stand on their side of the argument. It got so bad that one group sat on one side of the church and the other group sat on the other side. In the end, because neither group was willing to bend in its demands and the pastor wasn’t willing to take one side or the other, the pastor was asked to leave, and the church split in a very public and ugly manner. (Over the years I’ve seen this same scenario play out many times…)
For me it was especially sad because I could see the value of both viewpoints. We do need to understand and experience the love of God. But we also need to respect His majesty and holiness. We need genuine “God experiences”, and we need to be grounded in His Word.
I saw that each side had some correct points in their perspective. But they had totally lost sight of the Big Picture. We are all pursuing the same thing. Yes, we may prefer different methods; but aren’t we both pursuing a relationship with God?
I came across this in my quiet time recently…
…You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves that you are not spiritual and that you are acting like the people of this world. Some of you say that you follow me, and others claim to follow Apollos. Isn't that how ordinary people behave?
Other translations say that they were “acting like normal, sinful humans” or were “being unspiritual”. While each of these groups had the appearance of spirituality, they were motivated by totally selfish motives. The preceding verses said that they were being childish. And according to Paul, this betrays the leadership and influence of Christ in our lives.
The point is this, when we get so caught up in our personal agenda we lose sight of what’s most important: representing Christ to a world that desperately needs His transformational love and forgiveness, even if they don’t know it yet! God help us to grow up and see the Big Picture!