A Warning to Prevent Division in the Church

Hello Calvary,

What a great communion feast we had on Sunday! Once again 43 Mill Street was filled with great conversation and delicious food only to be outdone by the celebrating of communion together. How I wish that we could capture what we had on Sunday and spread it around like a fragrance so that the world could smell it and be drawn to Christ. This is, after all, what Jesus said our oneness would accomplish (I direct you back to Jesus’ prayer in John 17).

As I enjoy the memories of Sunday with it’s obvious display of oneness, I also look to the future with pastoral concern because I know how fragile unity is. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that the work of the gospel is fragile. Nothing will stand against the finished work of the cross and prevail; not even the gates of hell (See Matthew 16:18). What’s fragile is the unity that a church must retain in order to remain healthy, and therefore, involved in the work that Jesus will do with or without us. You see, the work of the Gospel will go on, but like many churches before us who are dying or who are dead, our part in the work won’t necessarily go on. We, as a church, aren’t even guaranteed an ongoing existence. This is nowhere more clear than in the second and third chapters of Revelation where five of the seven churches in Asia Minor are warned about some significant compromise. That’s 71% of the churches. The ultimate end for those churches who don’t repent and remain faithful? Jesus says of them, “I will come to you and remove your lamp stand.” What a powerful picture of the disappearance of a church. It’s light extinguished by the Son of God, the One who told us that we are to be a shining city on a hill.

As I consider where we are as a church, and the season of lifewe are in, the greatest danger I seeactually has to do with a recent and very exciting openness. As brothers and sisters in the family of God we are becoming more and more comfortable with each other. That comfort is leading to greater honesty and transparency with each other. It is an amazing thing to behold. Without this new found openness we could never fully become the church Jesus died to create. From the beginning I have encouraged what I now see happening. I would rather quit and go back to Chemistry than discourage what The Holy Spirit is doing right now. However there is, I believe, a warning that needs to be taken seriously while we enjoy our newfound honesty. We must be careful what we say.

Not all transparency is created equal. Not all honesty is edifying. There is a kind of honesty that builds up and a version of transparency that tears apart. Perhaps this was what Paul had in mind when, right after mentioning the “unity of the faith” in Ephesians 4:13, he writes of “speaking the truth in love” in verse 15. This idea of love and truth being in balance is most often applied in the context of how we are to speak truth. It certainly means that we should be aware of our tone. Of course, it also means that when we confront someone with the truth of Scripture we must be motivated by love. Yet, in the context of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus and the particular place we find these words, it seems to me that they can be just as rightly applied in another way. Speaking the truth in love also means being careful what we talk about with one another while continuing to control how we talk to each other. In this season for us as a church, I’m specifically concerned that we guard ourselves from engaging in careless conversation.

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Psalm 141:3
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
Proverbs 21:23

I use the word “careless” to describe conversationwe need to avoid because this is the seemingly harmless way that divisiveness starts. Thinking, again, about the three pictures of oneness - the body, the family, and the organization - all of them can be quickly broken apart by words spoken carelessly. That being said, it is in the third: organization, and in leadership, specifically, where disunity has the gravest consequences. We must be so careful as members of the Body of Calvary Wolfeboro when we speak to each other about the leadership of our church. There is a proper time and a proper way to question the decisions of church leadership, but only when questions are asked directly to the leadership involved. To do otherwise is to walk the razor’s edge of divisiveness. This is true even if a person only talks and never takes any decisive action. Words carry ideas that can carry lives away into a wasteland of pettiness and prideful sin.

That's why Paul wrote to Titus: “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” -Titus 3:10

This at the end of a paragraph he began with, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people.” -Titus 3:1-2

So keep a hold on your mouth and your tongue. If you disagree with something that a leader in the church has done or is doing, talk to them. If you don’t understand something and you are trying to be discerning about it, and make sense of a situation that doesn’t seem right, then talk to the appropriate leaders about it. You may ultimately find that you agree. But not always. At that point you have two choices. Accept what you don’t agree with, submit to the leadership God has established and move on continuing to fellowship and serve as unto the Lord, OR leave quietly. Stirring up dissension is not a Biblical option. Sowing discord will only further break the heart of Christ.

All of this begs the question, “Who are the leaders in our church?”

I will be the first to admitthe raising up of church leadership is a slow process that requires patience. I take comfort in the fact that Jesus spent three and a half years preparing his disciples for the calling of leadership. That being said, I am grateful for your patience while I seek diligently and carefully to equip those I believe God has called to be the pillars of Calvary Wolfeboro. I have yet to officially name elders and deacons, but this will begin happening this year. Already we have men, called by God,  functioning in leadership positions. If you haven’t already, please begin praying for the men who God has called to come alongside of me to lead our church.

For what I hope is an obvious reason, this has been a very difficult thing for me to write. I am your pastor, after all, so this can seem self-serving. Please know that the concern from which I write isn’t for myself or my family. My concern is for Calvary Wolfeboro as a whole and the work of the Gospel, which I know that God wants to do through our body.

For His Glory and the continued growth of Calvary Wolfeboro,

Pastor Justin