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Don’t polarize – Don’t escalate

by on June 14, 2014

Studying the Church is a fascinating experience. So many issues have developed over the years. One difficult question is always, why do church groups have problems and then split?

To begin, there are good reasons why churches should split. There are times when those experiences are necessary. There are, however, reasons to examine the subject further.

Sometimes the reasons are doctrinal but many times the reasons are personality conflicts. These are unfortunate. A bit of advice that might be useful is: Do not polarize. Do not escalate.

To polarize is to separate into two camps. These camps do not agree. There are reasons for disagreement – two strong personalities who disagree, like Paul and Barnabas. They may both be good persons but their gifts do not match well in a particular situation.

To escalate is to allow each camp to develop their reasons to unwarranted extremes. There are differences to be sure but escalation builds and builds and after while no one really knows what happened or why they are arguing.

Do not polarize. Seek the wisdom to find a way to talk out the issues. Maybe someone does need to leave. Maybe God wants them somewhere else. Sometimes differences are to move people to other fields of service. Maybe someone needs to confess and repent. Maybe many people need to confess and repent. Maybe some leaders need to confess and repent.

If separation is needed, then separate. Go to the places God is calling and serve Him well there.

Do not escalate. Escalation proves nothing except that we can build causes for our positions. The causes may be just. They may not be just. Escalation usually builds on shaky ground. Many times the original problems are lost in all the talk and defense.

It takes enormous amounts of patience and wisdom and discernment to find the way through Church issues. It requires gentleness that is not soft on the truth. It requires Bible knowledge and the ability to present that knowledge. It requires impartiality. It requires love of truth and love of people.

The liberal movement of Mennonite conferences in the mid 1900’s called for decisive action. Many strong leaders stepped up to meet the need. They banded together to oppose the liberal movements. They called their people to a holy lifestyle. They began conservative Bible schools to train the youth in Godly ways. They started new conferences to provide leadership for their people

However, some of the subsequent divisions have not been useful. They have only served to polarize and escalate into many different camps that cannot seem to communicate or fellowship with each other. The next generations are now reacting to those situations.

The sheep suffer when the shepherds cannot work together. They are not fed. They are not safe. They are not nourished. They are not loved.

Children live with the fallout and they inherit problems that they did not cause. They may be told that the reasons for the problems were valid. Maybe they were valid. However, the reasons may no longer exist. Wars continue to be fought long after they are over.

Converts from outside of Christianity are harmed when they see the lack of love and the intense politics of the organizational church. They frequently cannot resolve the dissonance created in their minds. ‘How could such good people live in such unloving ways? How could they polarize and then escalate and then split or maybe just tolerate each other without love?’

Sometimes splits do not happen. People just decide to continue in the same group and cover over the hurts and sins and never really deal with them. This causes shallow relationships and aching hearts. It prevents Spiritual growth among the people. It creates hollow, empty shells without substance. It creates unsafe places.

What does the Bible say?

Healthy fellowships know Romans 15:14. They strive for goodness and knowledge and they accept admonition from each other. The leaders are approachable. They are Godly men who love God’s truth and love God’s people.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

Don’t polarize. Don’t escalate. Stand fast on doctrinal issues. Seek resolution for personal issues. Live in love with one another.

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