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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Church Splits, Division & Personalities

Finger Chris Gonzalez has a great post over at his blog.  Chris writes:

Here is something I have heard often: 99% of church splits are not over theology, but over personality.

There was a time in my life when this gave me some comfort. Now I think it is just a thing people say to feel better about themselves.

It is as if personality is some kind of blank check for acting like an idiot. Too often, personality is an excuse for not changing. "Hey, this is just the way I am." It's as if personalilty is not a spiritual or weighty issue. Well, we can't just wiggle off the hook that easily, as if we couldn't help it since it was a personality issue.

I don't see Jesus giving us any wiggle room for disunity based upon personality differences. Check out the apostle's personality profiles and you'll see that we can't just play the personality card and allow our guilty consciences to be soothed.

Jesus picked, I think intentionally, a politically diverse group in order to prove that unity is based upon something other than sameness (uniformity).

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September 27, 2005 in Church Conflict | Permalink

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Many times the personalities get in the way of Theology and come across as "personality" splits when in fact, they are based on Theological issues.

Example: A person's doctrine is found Scripturally wrong or false and instead of changing their position (or at the very least admitting wrong to themselves) they will decide the person should have been more gentle or they aren't very "loving" therefore he/she must not be a christian.

This happens allot and I would guess it's because to many people are thin skinned and either unwilling to conform to Truth or don't really desire Truth but instead seek a "feeling" or emotional "experience". As though Truth only comes in the form of "warm ["loving"] fuzzies".

Posted by: BeHim | Sep 27, 2005 12:31:19 PM

I agree. To take it a little further, as a pastor in a church of 1700 the people who cause disunity the most are those who get upset because we don't have an affinity ministry that fits their niche demographic. They threaten with guilt that we are not meeting their specific needs. I think in our endeavor to meet so many different percieved needs, we miss out in meeting people's biggest need: an affinity/unifying ministry based on all of our common need for Christ and Him crucified.

Posted by: Tyler Jagen | Sep 27, 2005 4:29:31 PM

"Here is something I have heard often: 99% of church splits are not over theology, but over personality."

If that's true, then Christianity is a sham. Christianity should be all about love. Then again, maybe it's Churchianity getting confused with Christianity. It happens a lot...


Posted by: bernie dehler | Sep 28, 2005 1:25:42 AM

Motivations... Read James 4. Why do we do what we do? The irony is that most people don't see themselves as being the problem. It is always someone else who is creating problems. This is not new to the church. Many in the New Testament church had similiar issues so I think it is because of our fallen nature that we act like 'idiots'. The worse thing that a church leader could do is develop a 'fighting spirit' though. Men and women who are in leadership within the church need to take the same approach that Christ took. Humility... God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. When we take up the fight against 'selfish, yuppie minded, feed me' type of mentalities then no longer are we interested in God's Kingdom but we are falling into the trap of becoming the 'ladder climbing' person who is just looking for the next opportunity to push their own agenda. If we were truly interested in Christ's agenda we would not feel the need to fight against each other but to reach those who are hurting and needing to experience Christ's love. If an unchurched person was to look at you and the way you handle controversy would they want to follow Christ? I heard someone say, "It is impossible to do what Jesus did... but we can attempt to think like Jesus thought." Love those who hurt your feelings... Serve those whom you are in opposition to... Most of all, acknowledge your faults and admit them... Let's not let pride distract us from the purposes of God. Doug Foster

Posted by: Doug | Sep 28, 2005 2:26:48 PM

what did Jesus say about division in the church? what did Paul say? 1 Corinthians 11 is pretty clear. only one side will reveal God's approval...and in THIS instance it was all about recognizing the Body and Blood of Christ IN the Lords Supper.

in Christ,


Posted by: tad | Sep 28, 2005 5:34:45 PM

I think that quote is getting at something valid: Maybe a better way to say it is that 99% of church splits are about CHARACTER and not theology. After going through several divisions/splits its clear to me that whatever legitimate doctrinal issue is raised as the battle flag, it is much more about power, control, and character flaws. Including mine...

Posted by: John | Oct 3, 2005 10:51:13 AM

I've seen many people in ministry destroyed because of the way other people viewed them. With the statistics rising on church "feuds", this is an area that I think we need to learn to deal with before it hits in our neck of the woods. As long as people are involved in God's work, there will be personalities that get along, and many more that will not. In the midst of a personality clash, everyone involved needs to do a "heart check"… a serious heart check. And before we ever get there, we had better build a wise group of people who can speak accountability into our world before it escalates. Letting people fight in the church is sin. And leaving it undealt with, is also sin. And when it erupts so big that a split occurs, who can't see that there is sin involved? When you are so selfish that you will leave a church and start another one, or create a division that causes someone else to do the same... your ego and your ministry are not focused upon God.

Posted by: julie | Oct 3, 2005 3:03:38 PM

Theology is defined by one's relationship with the Father through His Son Jesus. If there is not a good realtionship in that area, it is impossible for one to have a relationship with others that is genuine. In serving as a church planter, my estimate, for what its worth, would be that the vast majority of church splits are caused because of poor relationships, first with the Father through Christ and with our peers within the church body. Of course once personality (carnality) creep in, this comment can get used many ways.

Posted by: Randy Heddings | Oct 3, 2005 5:56:37 PM

Lots of really good comments here and I believe they are all true in different forms, all I can remember when I read this topic is how it broke my heart when people I had poured my life into treated me like an old dirty rag, I'm not bitter... just broked hearted... it helped me learn even more about people and gave me just a hint of how Jesus might have felt as well... just another painful lesson about ministry.

Posted by: Tom Riggs | Oct 4, 2005 2:07:06 PM

thnks for your good and helpful letters of conflicts .especily here in Africa where conflct is our breakfast .please tell me the roots of conflics and how we can solve them in our churches

Posted by: pere | Apr 7, 2006 4:04:20 AM

Much of the time I think that chuch splits are not related to theology. People may argue over theology but usually it is not serious. If it is they will attend a church with a similar theology as their own. What most people spilt over is not so simple.

People are not all the same and do not learn the same. They are unique individuals. God made them like this so they would have different functions in the world and in God's work. Some are very active and do not like to just sit in church but want to be doing something. They learn as the are doing an activity. Another may learn as they see things that teach them. They may want to learn through video, watching action up front, seeing what a Godly person is like. Sometimes it is the action on the stage more than what is being said. Then others may love to listen to a pastor or leader. They learn well auditorily. This seems to be the most commonly expected.

In addition church members may or may not have children that have needs in the church. Where will their children go and what will they do?

Some may need to be involved in the running of the church or in class. When they are not involved they have nothing to do but cause problems. Keep them busy.

Problems happen when the person, or family, are not important or listened to. They may request a nursery but feel no one is listening. They may want to be part of activities, or do a home study program, or be on the board, or .... well so many things. But they are viewed a unimportant by those in charge. Again, what are they going to do with all that energy?

Sometimes churches split when a person takes the power of the church and controls what happens in it. This person is more concerned about how they think the church should be and not what the current needs are. They look at themselves as the patriarch of the church.

Sometimes the church has no direction and therefore everone wants to go in their own direction. A good "Statement of Purpose."

Sometimes the money given in tithes and offerings are not handled properly. People like to know what their money is being used for, according to recent studies.

Sometimes it is because the church protocol is not followed. The established by-laws are not followed.

There are many people and many reasons churches split. But it seems to be mostly a result of character and personal needs, than it is theology. People can easily follow a Godly person that has small differences in Theology, if they have a Godly program that shows care and concern for the people.

Posted by: Myron Severson | Jan 7, 2007 12:40:28 AM

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