Church Splits by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10)

Denominational splits might have been much fewer had churches put Paul’s advice into practice. Researching this topic, I was shocked at some of the petty arguments leading to denominational divides:

  • Which picture of Jesus should hang in the foyer
  • If a weed eater should be purchased or not
  • If “deviled” eggs should be served at the church dinners
  • If cranberry/grape juice instead of grape juice is a communion substitute
  • Whether or not to add stall dividers in the women’s restroom

No doubt it was issues like these that led to the joke about a rescued man who had lived on a desert island for years. His liberators questioned why he had built three huts. “Well, the first one is my house, the second one is my church.” The obvious question followed: “What’s the third hut?”

Oh, that’s where I USED to go to church!”

Sometimes instead of church splits, there are mere rifts:

  • A three-hour meeting over whether or not to buy a new vacuum cleaner followed by a vote to determine which church members should be allowed to use it
  • A quarrel over replacing a worship song with a Bible reading/ singing verses 1-3 instead of 1,2 and 4
  • A squabble over where the pastor stood outside to greet the people after church
  • A 45-minute spat at a women’s group meeting over whether dinner rolls for an upcoming church supper ought to be sliced horizontally or vertically
  • A remodeling project in which an elderly man didn’t like the idea of recessed lighting and referred to the scripture about not hiding our light under a bush

One church elder wrote about his experience: “One time in our church staff meeting (9,000- member church in a very affluent suburb in North Houston), a 25-minute argument ensued over how many hot-dogs we should order for the 4th of July service celebration: ‘Should we order 1,200 or 1,500?’ There was a food bank/kitchen literally three blocks away that would gladly take the excess. But we had to argue over 300 hot dogs for 25 minutes … because, you know, they’re so darned expensive and ‘we have to be good stewards.’”

Typically, churches do not split over trivial matters. The most common splits happen over financial or doctrinal issues, members who have a sense of entitlement instead of service and dissenting church-goers who move from church to church, sowing seeds of discord. Nevertheless, they all leave in their wake hurt feelings and un-Christlike attitudes.

Imagine what would have happened had Paul’s appeal been practiced from his day forward. I think we all know the answer to that.

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