How to sow disunity in the church

Perhaps it is the election or maybe it is just me, but there seems to be an unusual emphasis on unity as of late within churches. Celebrity pastors and local pastors have taken to preaching unity as the country around them inches ever so close to civil war. Are these pastors being trite or are they speaking to relevant cultural issues in a theologically sound manner. That, of course, can only be determined on an individual basis. But let us flip the script. For in order to diagnose a problem, it often is vital to know where the problem stems from.

Many claim that disunity in the church is a pervasive problem. Perhaps they are right. However, as a natural contrarian, I find myself wondering whether too much unity is the issue. Of course too much unity can only be an issue in the church if the church is not united on the gospel. A deviant focus can draw much unity, as it is very uncommon for men to unite for a righteous cause. The Tower of Babel was mankind’s first attempt at unity. Sure, Winston Churchill allied with FDR and Stalin, but it was obvious in 1945 that the allies were not united behind a common cause.

But the church is called to be united around the gospel and its spread. So what is the root of disunity there? In the event of disunity, which is not to be conflated with dissent, there is an element of hostility towards God. One or both sides of the divide are acting with hostility towards God. What then sows this hostility.

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:1-4 NASB 1995

The world is afoot trying to corrupt the church. The Bible never promises a shortage of wolves to prey on the flock. And unfortunately, due to our fallen nature, the sin of the brethren can create such disunity. Total depravity is real, and we have to face it even in our own ministry. Any successful ministry or perhaps a perceived woefully underperforming ministry is highly susceptible to human egos corrupting our motivations. This is why James instructs us here to check our motivations. James ups the ante however. In verse four he calls these people adulterers because they are whoring themselves to the world when they are supposed to be the bride of Christ. This is the language James uses to describe church disunity and a primary root cause. Trying to be friends with the world is a guaranteed way to cause division in the church.

And this is what we are seeing in the church today. How many churches are preaching the same message of social justice you can get from corporate HR departments and communist professors. This is a surefire way to lose our light and saltiness, as it is a way to split a church, because the gates of hell will not prevail, but unfortunately this may mean a schism if reform is impossible.

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