I have been walking with God for 25 years, and during that time I have experienced two church splits. The first time was when I had been saved for less than 6 months, and the second time was when I was a missionary.
Church splits are a lot like divorces in that there are irreconcilable differences, property disputes and finally child custody disputes. Behind it all – at least in churches – is usually an offence that has festered too long or even someone’s desire to take control. A person who takes control usually has difficulty distinguishing the difference between people and personal property.
In 1 Kings 3:16-28 two women came to Solomon to settle a dispute. They both had children about the same age, but one woman had rolled over on her child while sleeping and suffocated the child. When she awoke she exchanged her dead child with the other woman’s child.
Both women asserted their claim on the living child, but Solomon could not determine which was telling the truth. He then decided to cut the child in two parts and give one part to each woman. The woman who was lying agreed, but the true mother surrendered her right to the child so that it could live.
I remember asking a young leader who was a key figure in a church dispute about the fallout of a possible church split. Until my conversation there had only been a lot of discussion of doctrinal differences and offences, but I asked, “There are over 40 children in Sunday school who come to church without their parents. Have you thought about them? They will be scattered to the wind if you continue.” Unfortunately, wisdom was not heeded that day, and that church was almost brought to and end by the ensuing split which did in fact scatter those children to the wind.
Doctrines are very necessary, but doctrines are the foundations of new life for things that I like to call “people”. As in marriage where children are involved we need to solve differences in the church by considering more than our own personal tastes, dreams and opinions. The spiritual wellbeing of many who are not aware of our differences is at stake, and a selfish or impulsive move on our part can derail the spiritual walks of many others for years to come.
What then is Solomon’s wisdom? Sometimes it is better to lose a personal argument for the greater good. God is sovereign, and He can reveal through wisdom and circumstances who does and does not have the sheep’s and His kingdom’s greater good in mind.
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Rom 14:19