Deconstructing divisions while building unity through Christ

by Jim on March 26, 2013


The Ministry Encouragement Podcast – Episode #39  by the Rev. Jim W. Hollis

Hello to each of you who is reading the blog and listening to another Episode of our Ministry Encouragement Podcast.  I’m Jim Hollis, the founder and Executive Director of Proactive Ministries, who is the sponsor of this weekly podcast.  It truly blesses our ministry and my heart personally for you to be part of the community that God is growing through the sharing of this podcast.

In this Episode, I will be continuing to address Christian Conflict.  I’m not going to be convincing anyone that our greatest challenges are outside the walls of the congregations exclusively, for many of our greatest struggles as the community of faith come from inside the walls, within the memberships of our churches.  For churches are made up of people with clay feet, faults, issues, struggles, frustrations, bad habits, wrong tendencies, addictions, and denial of the highest degree.  We are all sinners and in need of God’s Divine love, grace, forgiveness and hope.  And we are called to grace in Christ, who God intends to be the center of the Christian church and life.

But why and how can there be such an incredible message and Gospel of Grace while conflicts can divide and destroy the fabric of Christian fellowship and relationships?  Are our expectations to0 unrealistic for this thing called “Church” today?  Have we been deceived into thinking that church is a place of immense, massive love, tranquility and peace?  Perhaps some have been sold this very biased and untrue view.  Then there are those of us who have grew up in church, having spent many decades of our lives as part of various congregations across the land.  The church can be one of the most redemptive places in the world and still have divisions and conflict among the people in it.  Today I wish to talk about:

Building Christian Unity and Deconstructing Division, Factions and Conflicts

I will start out today by sharing some of an article written by the Rev. Erik Alsgaard, who is the editor of the Michigan Area Reporter and pastor of St. Ignace United Methodist church in Michigan.

The title in the January / February issue of Interpreter Magazine (ISSN 0020-9678  Periodical #9154) is, “Bullying Happens In Church.  Don’t Ignore It!”  Bullies in churches are reality and both the clergy and laity leadership in the church needs to learn how to address bullying of children, youth, as well as adults, which can take the form of verbal abuse and cyber-bullying.  The Rev. Laurie Haller, former District Superintendent in the West Michigan Conference said people often react to bullies in the congregation by leaving the church.  She says, “The power than bullies hold over good and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ is one of the prime reasons that many of our churches are unhealthy and diseased.”  Most people are not prepared and equipped to deal with bullies.

Really?  This has become so prevalent in churches across America, that regardless of the sign out front, it is reality inside the walls and memberships.  But let’s don’t think this is a modern day problem or concern for us all.  This has been going on since the early church was in place.  Here are some Scriptures (with my own summary thoughts)  that address these issues from the early church, out of the Bible: 

17 Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. 19 Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.  (I Corinthians 11:17-19, NRSV)

  • Many churches today are existing with high levels of hurtful conflict & divisions
  • There are factions in some churches who proclaim: “us vs. them” OR “our way vs. their way”  AND “My way or the highway”
  • This gives us great OPPORTUNITIES to make clear who is genuine and authentic in Christ


43-44 While they continued to stand around exclaiming over all the things he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, “Treasure and ponder each of these next words: The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into human hands.”

45 They didn’t get what he was saying. It was like he was speaking a foreign language and they couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But they were embarrassed to ask him what he meant. (Luke 9:43-45, The Message)

  • While things were going well and disciples were marveling, Jesus had a wake up call
  • The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into human hands by one of his own disciples
  • They didn’t get it – embarrassed to ask what he meant by this


20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. (2 Corinthians 12:20-21, NIV)

  • If we hang around together long enough, we will be disappointed in each other
  • Left unchecked, this will lead to major horrible problems in the house called the church
  • God may humble us and I may get judgmental at the lack of response


15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:15-18, NIV)

  • If you all keep on fighting it out, you will be destroyed by one another
  • Biting and devouring kills life and hope
  • We choose to walk by the Spirit or to live in the flesh… not the same


36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.  (Acts 15:36-40, NIV)

  • Even some of the “best of the best” disciples have great differences – This is normal
  • Sometimes our memories of other’s sins are much stronger than our grace toward them
  • Barnabas and Paul sharply disagreed and split up to both go do God’s Ministry

With all this being shared, where is the real hope for changing this in our congregations of today?

  • We can prayerfully consider transforming the way we do Leadership Development, Selection and Accountability
  • We can seek professional, experienced outside help for our major conflict
  • We can see the conflict become resolved, healing and reconciliation take place
  • We can also be ready to help everyone involved to “move to a third, new place for everyone”
  • This new place is a place of ministry and transformation

It is my prayer and encouragement for you that you will act on what you have heard and learned this day.  I have a special GIFT for any of you who are in a church with major conflict at this time.  IF you will call me at our ministry offices (Proactive Ministries in Smyrna, GA) I would be honored to talk with you about the struggles your church is experiencing.  You don’t have to be the Pastor of the church, but I would be glad to hear from any Pastor who would like to have someone listen, understand and offer hope for the future.

Therefore, today if your church could use the ministry of Peacemaking and would like to explore the possibility of Conflict Resolution, I would personally love to hear from you and your pastor.  Our ministry Staff at Proactive Ministries would be willing to give your church a gift – we would be glad to set up a 90 minute GoToMeeting conference with you, your Pastor and other key leaders in your congregation to get to know you all, listen to your current reality and offer hope for new ways to help each of you move to a new place in Christ.  Unless the number of calls becomes overwhelming, I will personally do these face-to-face visits with you, your Pastor and key leaders by GoToMeeting, which we will set up for your church.  The phone number of our Georgia offices is: (770) 803-9988.  Give me a call today.  Why wait and live longer with conflict and hurt?

Also, would you share this Podcast with those you love and have come to know?  It can be an encouragement for them and they, in turn, may wish to pass it along for others to be blessed by.  This is a ministry you can share.  Again, thanks for being with us today and keep your calls, emails and comments coming in.  It always inspires us to be able to work with churches to move out of conflict and into the light of Divine Love and Forgiveness.  Call me today.



{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: