The Issues is Not the Issue

By Francis Frangipane

Last week, as we discussed church splits, we marveled that heaven itself endured a time of strife where Lucifer challenged the leadership of God. The Scriptures reveal that a full third of the angels succumbed to the persuasion of Lucifer's spell. We do not know what lie the devil was able to weave, but that angels could, on the one hand, know God in His unlimited capabilities, yet believe a strategy could emerge that could defeat Him is a testimony to the unfathomable cunning of Lucifer's wiles.

Recognizing that Lucifer was able to divide so great a number of angels from God, we also should not be surprised that he is able to separate good friends during a church split. Let us, therefore, continue to remove the mask from Satan's activities and seek rather to be those who overcome him (Rev 12:11).

One truth that will help us defeat the enemy is knowing that, when a church is suffering the heartbreak of division, what seems to be the issues are often not the issue at all. Indeed, when Lucifer fell, from heaven's standpoint, he no longer retained the name Lucifer, but instead was called Satan or the devil. Both of these names reveal the nature of what we are fighting during a split, but let's first look at one of the definitions of the name "devil," which meant "slanderer." To slander means more than to speak evil of one to another. When describing the nature of Lucifer, it means "one who puts himself or some thing between two in order to divide them."

Satan's goal is not just to speak evil, but in slandering, his goal is ultimately to divide us. He will exaggerate one person's remarks and distort another's reactions. He will work to foil attempts to compromise and will continually manipulate divided Christians with new issues. It is a mark of a church under the influence of demonic attack that the criticisms of the divisive group continually reproduce, and without remedy. When Satan manipulates a splinter group within a church, they feel the issues are unsatisfiable. But remember, the issues are not truly the issue.

From God's perspective, the issues seemingly rising between opposing camps are purely a ruse used by Satan to divide and conquer a church. You see, the issue is not the color of the new carpet or the style of praise and worship or how long the sermon should be; the real issue is will we approach one another in the meekness of Christ and will we defend the unity of Christ within the fellowship?

Indeed, just as the devil's goal is to put himself or some thing between two to divide, so Christ puts Himself among us in order to unite. While He instructs us to honor the leaders within a church, He also tells us to prefer one another and submit to one another in holy fear. As we seek His forgiveness for our sins, He tells us His forgiveness is conditional: unless we forgive others, His mercy will be withheld from our need. And again, He decrees that if we are at the altar and there remember someone has something against us, we are to leave our offering and seek to be reconciled (Matt 5:23-24).

If You Are In a Split
When division strikes a church, there are three groups that are usually involved. The first is the initiators of the division, the group with the issues. The second group is the current senior leader and the staff that has remained loyal to him. The third group is the largest and is comprised of those in the middle of the division. These are the innocent sheep who have relationships with leaders but are also friends with the dissenters. Hearing slander and rumors, they are confused and are unsure of what to believe or who to follow.

The dissenting group may use apparently spiritual issues to empower their cause: "We just want more of God." Or, "We want more freedom to grow." Such arguments seem both innocent and legitimate until we remember that anyone can seek God and enjoy more of Him at any time; there is no need to divide the church to personally have more of God's presence. The issues are much deeper than the style of worship.

Yet, two groups with separate leaders are rising in opposition in your church. Who do you follow? To discern the true shepherd among you, recall the wisdom of Solomon. When two women came, each claiming a baby was her own, he ordered the child to be split in two. The true mother begged that the child remain alive, even if it meant the baby would be raised by the lying woman. The false mother, however, agreed to let the baby be split in two. Solomon recognized that the one who loved the child the most, the true mother, would not allow her baby to be divided. Thus, he awarded her with her offspring (1Kings 3:16-27).

In your church, the true shepherd will be the one who seeks to keep your church together. He will not initiate a split as a solution. He will seek to settle the legitimate issues, while maintaining His focus on the higher issue of Christ-centered unity.

Lord, forgive us for allowing divisions and splits to become such deeply ingrained traditions in Christianity. Lord, we confess that we are easily manipulated and deceived by false issues. We confess our sins and seek cleansing. Make us instruments of healing. Help us to work with You to unite the church and prepare Your bride. Help us to see the real issue is, in all our diversity, will we remain united? In Jesus' Name. Amen.