Cart Before the Horse?

by Chris Dare, Cromwell (Ind.) United Metho

I really think that Jim Cymbala (in the April editorial) has put the cart before the horse when he says that division in the church keeps the Holy Spirit from working. I propose that the lack of spirituality is a part of the cause of church division, rather than a result. The internal bickering that tends to precede division comes out of three distinct areas: ownership ("their" ministry, "their" project, etc.), tradition (active opposition to change), and self-interest (making sure your own needs are met first).

Unfortunately all of these traits can be found in pastors as well as parishioners, and when they show up in pastors, the problem is amplified. The parish is now certain to choose sides. Once the lines have been drawn, the pastor finds that he or she is only a pastor to a small portion of the congregation. The rest are set adrift because they disagree with the pastor.

Cymbala also said that "the early church flourished because there was no division." In fact, many issues threatened to divide the early churches. If they did not divide, it was because Paul kept them focused on Christ. The use of Acts 2:1 as an indicator of the "one accord" of the early church seems a stretch at best. This passage seems better translated as "being all together, in one place"; and it refers apparently to the eleven disciples, not to any church body.

In order to avoid division, we must keep our focus on Christ and on His grace and on His love and on His power. It is only through Him that we can overcome the distracting and divisive siren songs of ownership and tradition and self-interest. We must all be servants. Then we will be open to the work of the Holy Spirit and to the will of our Lord and Savior.