I was 14 years old when the church across town went through a split. When I was 18 I witnessed another church split in Florence. And when I was 26 I got to see a third split. I was not a member of any of the churches. I don’t know all the details I only know the results. Here are some of the things I have learned over three splits.

Its always personal
Every split turns personal. The original split may begin because of a difference between doctrine, philosophy, or carpet color but at the end of the day it always turns personal. I call it church on church slander or brother on brother hatred. Every split I have seen two villians emerge. The person who lead the split and their antagonist. The antagonist may be an elder, minister, a member, or decorator. These two represent the cause and people start to spew hatred toward them and their family. In the name of standing for truth and leading a needed reform the people and supporters begin to slug it out with words. I have heard of hate mail sent to family members, u-haul boxes placed on lawns with a for sale sign planted in the yard, newspaper articles or ads telling everyone in the region why the other group is terrible, snubbing people, etc.

It always leaves people in the middle
My 10th grade math teacher went with the split group and people said nasty things to her. Later she and her family reconsidered their decision to leave. The problem was where do you go when you have been told by so many how you have denied Jesus, are going to hell, and have disgraced you family name? How do you return and set next to them in worship? She couldn’t see how this would work. I have seen the same in other areas.

There are others who have friends and family who attend the split church and the original church and if they don’t pick sides they are weak and not willing take a stand for truth. If they pick a side they alienate a family member. If they try to stay out of the mix people will do their best to draw you in.

It doesn’t end at church
The split never ends at church it goes everywhere. If there is a Christian school they will be forced to deal with this. Church camp is never the same. Any major event that involves the local churches is impacted. Everyone has to pick a side and one side is the winner and the other the looser.

It never ends
It has been 18 years since I witnessed the first split and the controversy is still going on. Everything the split church does is analyzed and dusted for prints to see what heresy must be involved in their latest plan. The original church is always second guessed and every decision is yet another affirmation that they had to leave that place. 18 years later and this is still going on.

God Hates Division
I don’t know how many verses in the Bible deal with unity, peacemakers, and getting along but when you see the aftermath of splits you can understand why God hates division. God knows how it looks to the community around us, how it impacts the people involved and the innocent bystanders who happen to live in the area, and how it leaves a path of destruction.

I have seen many church people do ungodly things in the name of Jesus when a church undergoes a split.


2 responses to “Splitsville”

  1. Anonymous says :

    Rusty, you have a keen and observing eye. I can’t believe you could hit the nail on the head so squarely having never been through this yourself. Being at a split congregation may be the single most disheartening thing I have ever experienced. I pray we can all stand firm in our convitions and yet still have the mind of Christ as we try to navigate our differences.

  2. Matthew says :

    I am thankful that I found this blog. This is a great article or post. I have admired your work for some time now.

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