A Texas preacher, Bob Joyce, tells about a church split that began over an argument at a potluck supper. The dispute started when one of the sisters brought a congealed salad made from cool whip instead of real whipping cream.
The reminds me of an old story Robert Jackson used to tell about a country church that couldn’t get along. Both of the opposing sides lacked the resources to leave and build another building. So, each group decided to meet at different times – one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The building was heated by a coal stove. But each group had its own coal pile. During the week someone snuck into the building and wrote on the blackboard:
Two Coal Piles
In his book, War in the Pews, Frank Martin documents other church splits that are equally as ridiculous and outrageous. Recently, a friend of mine said that a church we were both familiar with had split over the issue of wearing masks in the worship services.
All of this is dismal, disgraceful denial of Jesus’ prayerful plea for unity among believers: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:20-21).
Jesus wants us to be one. One in Him. One in spirit. One in faith. One in mission. One in purpose. And one in doctrinal practices. Differences in means and methods of Scriptural ministry that fall within the realm of expediency ought not to divide us.
“The continuous and widespread fragmentation of the Church has been the scandal of the ages,” wrote the late Paul Bilheimer. “It has been Satan’s master strategy. The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined.”
People from different backgrounds, occupations, and political affiliations can still experience spiritual oneness if the goal is great enough, if the purpose is clear enough, and the mission compelling enough.
Consider the first-century followers of Jesus. A tax collector, a political zealot, a physician, fishermen, and a woman who at one time was possessed with seven demons and was possibly a prostitute. Peter was explosive. James was practical. Paul was logical. John was tender-hearted. And Thomas expressed skepticism. Yet, they all came together as one for a common cause.
It is the same cause that ought to elicit our commitment to oneness. To work together in preaching the gospel, saving souls, and building up the Body of Christ. The desire for spiritual oneness will awaken and arouse our care for one another. Each individual will be devoted to the good of the group. And the group will be concerned about each individual. The attitude of oneness will stimulate us to take seriously Paul’s exhortation “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25).
May the motto made famous in Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Three Musketeers be our Christian motto: “One for all and all for one.”