How to Kill a Church

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, [a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

In an upper room in Jerusalem, just hours before Jesus’s arrest and his crucifixion, he gathered for one last meal with his disciples. After sharing bread and wine and giving them some parting words, he prayed. Jesus not only prayed for his disciples, he prayed for us. The one thing Jesus prayed for all of those who had come to believe in him through the message of those first eyewitnesses and followers of Christ was unity. Christians are really bad at unity. Division is one of the things Christians and churches do best. For the first thousand years of the church, after Jesus ascended into heaven, there was one church. Only one. But in 1054 AD, that all changed. There was a break between the Eastern Church and the Western Church. It was never repaired. 500 years later, within the Western Church, there was another great schism between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. We call this the Reformation. After that point, over the past 500 years, there have been thousands of splits. Within the Protestant stream of the Christian tradition, which is what we are a part of, it is estimated there are about 35,000 denominations. Division is in our DNA. I found myself this week thinking “I wonder how Jesus feels about that.” As Jesus looks out on the landscape of all his, how do you think Jesus feels?

Why does division happen in the church? And maybe the better question is, how do we prevent it? How do we protect that and preserve unity?

  1. Put Jesus at the center.

  2. Make lots of room for differences.

  3. Make zero room for division.

How to kill a church:

  • Misplaced focus leads to quarrels…

  • Quarrels lead to cliques…

  • Cliques lead to division…

  • Division kills churches.