Sam and Alice were relatively new at the church. They had come from another local church that had recently gone through some very turbulent times. Friendly, articulate and outgoing, Sam and Alice had quickly established themselves as leaders in their new congregation. Eventually, though, their friendliness toward some had worn off.
Andrew Wright received an angry phone call after a committee meeting one night. Sam soundly denounced Andrew’s opinions about the church’s upcoming anniversary celebration and suggested he should stick to areas where he was more gifted. Sam wanted God’s work to be as potent as possible, and that meant the right people should be in the right places. Andrew, a long-standing but shy member at the church, resigned from the committee.
Shirley and Jan encountered Alice’s wrath after a morning Bible study meeting. She didn’t agree with their thoughts on the Holy Spirit’s role in the Church today. She informed them that she had done a great deal of study and research on the subject and, unless they were prepared for a full public debate, next time they should keep their ideas on the subject to themselves. Alice honestly desired pure doctrine with no dross. The result was that she silenced two Christian women from ever speaking up in their Bible study again. Ever.
As it turned out, these two incidents were just the tip of the iceberg. Alice and Sam unwittingly pitted old friends against one another. They wormed their way into the hearts of some—those they considered to be walking closely with the Lord—while intentionally alienating others who just didn’t measure up to their standards. It didn’t take long before the internal strife reached a fever pitch.
It was discovered too late that Alice and Sam were at the forefront of the problems in their previous church.
I wish I could tell you that this story is entirely fictional. Unfortunately, it’s not. It is actually a combination of two different scenarios I recently encountered. Two true stories that have been multiplied many times over in churches all around the world.
Too frequently, rather than showing love, we have a tendency to sow seeds of dissension. Perhaps we view divisiveness as acceptable because it is all around us. We regularly see politicians fighting among themselves, union workers arguing with management, environmentalists feuding with industry. All of these and more are a routine part of our society. When we see this type of activity, we generally view it as normal. From God’s perspective, however, it is not normal, especially in the Church.