The church is divided. Contrary to the formation of the original church, the modern church has over 33,000 denominations, with more being formed every day. It seems that denominations can even be formed over small disputes in the church, something as little as a theological dispute. That’s not a big deal, right?
Well, it is, and it isn’t.
Theological disputes are extremely common. Even as a sixteen-year-old Christian, I encounter them almost weekly. Debating over the finer points of theology is hardly new to myself or my friends. However, there reaches a limit, and that’s the line we must discuss.
Theological discussions are important for two reasons.
1: They help us seek the truth behind the Word of God and understand fully what He writes therein. The greatest mysteries of theology would not have been solved if not for the discussion of theologians centuries ago.
2: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” This quote from Proverbs 27:17 (ESV) helps us understand the reasoning behind debate. Why debate in the first place? After all, doesn’t it just bring anger and strife? It can, but at the same time, it develops both the rhetoric and personal beliefs of all Christians. We are called to defend our faith, but how can we do so if we don’t know how to both defend and attack in a discussion? I have grown greatly in my beliefs through debating them with those around me.
There is, however, a limit to theological discussion. Some pastors and theologians take debate too far, and instead of using their time in war, doing battle against Satan and the kingdom of darkness, they spend their time doing battle against other believers, their own brothers. I sincerely wish that men like Pastor John MacArthur (I dislike calling people out, but I really hope Pastor MacArthur sees this) would realize the damage they do to the church in their debate. There is a limit that must not be crossed. Once you have used debate as a tool to tear other’s beliefs down, you have crossed that line.
Furthermore, while we understand theological discussions to be healthy, we also realize that theological disputes can even become poisonous to the Church body as a whole.
The Church could be defined, for this example, as “A gathering of believers and their families for the sole purpose of worshiping, glorifying, and seeking after Christ, willing to obey and carry out his commands till the end of their days.” This doesn’t sound much like today’s Church, does it? Particularly the beginning, “a gathering of believers.” Now, the Church is mistakenly believed to be the building, with the people being called “Church-goers”. This is wrong. The Church is the body of people, not the building.
With that being said, there is an overarching piece that connects all believers- worship. No matter their theological beliefs, every single true Christian should unite in their churches on Sundays and worship. Worship unifies Christians; it makes them into a single body, untouchable and unbreakable. Unhealthy dispute, on the other hand, tears a Church apart.
So what is unhealthy dispute? A better question might be, “what tears the Church apart?” A number of things, to be blatantly honest. Pastor Tim Challies, one of the first Christian bloggers to ever put his fingers to a keyboard, recently published a post called, “10 Church Members God Especially Calls Me To Love“. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. He provides valuable insight on the people (and problems) that can destroy a church.
To add to my previous point: beyond worship, there is one other unifying factor within the church that must be understood- understanding our place. If every single member within the church knew their place and the responsibilities that came with it, division within the church would be a rare occurrence indeed.
Learning your place within the church requires a detailed knowledge of your role within the Church. There are two major roles within the Church: the Church leaders and the Church body. If you are not an elder, pastor, or deacon, you are not part of the Church leadership.
Sadly, so many members of today’s Church have forgotten their places within the Church. Feeling justified in their critical analysis of the Church leadership, they cry “injustice” at the slightest change, forgetting that they are not part of the Church leadership. It’s that simple: if you are not an Elder or Deacon, you have no need to speak up unless the concern is a major sin issue or you are asked for your opinion. While many people cite Titus 1:7, which says “let your overseer be beyond reproach”, this does not mean that the members of the Church body are to reproach the elders. Again, that is not their place.
Many will refuse this, of course. Again, feeling justified in their supposed injustice, they commit sin by going beyond their calling. This is the way of today’s Church, it seems, and it’s hardly a wonder that so few pastors remain in their stations for extended periods of time.
“feeling justified in their supposed injustice, they commit sin by going beyond their calling. This is the way of today’s Church, it seems, and it’s hardly a wonder that so few pastors remain in their stations for extended periods of time.”Tweet
All of this, however, goes back to the critiquing of the entire Church, from worship services to members themselves. Whether it’s someone complaining about the lack of hymns in the worship service or another person complaining that there are hobos in the lounge, people like to complain. I do it. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize that you do it too. It’s within our nature to complain. Just look at the Israelites- freshly removed from Israel in what was quite clearly an act of God, and they’ve hardly gone a few miles before they start complaining. Moses, perhaps the first pastor ever, was ready to throw himself off a sand dune!
Unfortunately, the reality of complaining within human nature is not an excuse to be used, and while thinking critically of a Church or person may come naturally to some, as it does me, this does not give you an excuse to speak that complaint.
So what must we do to overcome differences within the Church? Let’s recap.
1: Debate, but keep it respectful and don’t cross the line into crushing other’s beliefs.
2: Understand what the Church really is.
3: Understand your role within the church, and with that, understand your place.
4: Keep your criticisms to yourself, and exercise discernment if they must be spoken.
5: Root all complaining out of your system.
If you have any questions about your role, talk to your pastor. He’ll be happy to help!
Alright, that’s all for today. Thanks so much for reading! I hope you really enjoyed this post. If you haven’t already, make sure to click that Follow button below (or to the side). Then, when I release new posts like this, you’ll get notified. Thanks again, and I hope you have a fantastic day!
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