Note: This article is for any UAMM Church or Fellowship Experiencing Dissension and Division. A developing Commentary by Bishop William Nicholson
Just a word of love and caution that if anyone has a grievance in the Church, one must not deal with it publically. This is a big error that creates turmoil and God will deal with these persons. God is the perfect judge.
The proper procedure is not to deal with Church related issues especially regarding discipline publically such as in social media. Bring your issues to the pastor of the local Church and/or Elder. If the issue needs to be brought to the Elders Board, it is again brought in total confidence. If the problem is not resolved there then one can go to the Joint Board, and the final solution is the General Membership Meeting of the Church Council. This process is scriptural and is a clearly presented as our guide in the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living.
I would like to thank the Rev. Bob Monette, a pastor of New Fire for giving me food for thought as he shared with me, today, what Paul says in the book of Romans. The reference I am now reading is Romans 16:16-27.
According to a Bible commentator when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he had been involved in church ministry and missions for about 20 years. He had met a lot of people over those years and shared in ministry with many of them. He knew the good people in the Church as well as other types of people that participated in the life of the Church.
In verses 17 & 18 Paul cautions the Romans about those who might be among them that were not helpful in the cause of Christ. There would be those who would cause problems. Some of these people did this because they were immature and ignorant. Others would cause problems because they were the “tares” Jesus referred to in his parable in Matthew 13. Jesus said in that parable of the kingdom that the good seeds were the sons of the kingdom sown by the Son of Man, but that the tares were the sons of the evil one which were sown by the devil. They would be gathered and judged at the end of the age.
In verses 17 & 18 Paul warns the Romans about those who would cause dissension and gives them some brief instructions on how to deal with such people. He says, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”
The ungodliness that marks those Paul wants us to keep our eye on are “those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching you learned.” “Dissension” means “division,” “disunity” or “contention.” It was a problem in the Corinthian church which had split into factions over personal issues, pride, jealousy and selfishness. These were believers who thought themselves to be godly and walking in the spirit, but in reality they were walking in the flesh.
A commentary has said that Paul is specific here that the divisions and hindrances he sees is from people that make professions of faith in Christ and become part of a church. They can even exhibit a lot of good qualities and could become part of the church leadership. But there is a problem within their hearts and minds. They love themselves more than the Lord Jesus Christ and His people.
One of the big concerns I have and this is a big problem in many churches today. I see it everywhere. It is about having unqualified leaders. 1 Timothy 3:3 states that an overseer must be someone who is gentle and not pugnacious or violent. They are to be peaceable, not contentious or quarrelsome. Titus 1:7,8 adds that the elder must be self-controlled and not self-willed or quick-tempered.
Harmony may be there at first. You may think everyone is working in harmony together toward the same goal of achieving Christ’s agenda, and then you find out that some of your co-laborers do not really share that goal. They are actually seeking power and prestige for themselves. That eventually creates division. Paul’s warning here is to be cautious of those who are contentious and causing hindrances and then deal with them before they cause any serious harm to the rest of the body.
In closing what can be done about dissention in the church? What shall be done when such people are discovered in your Church. Paul says, “turn away from them.” In Titus 3:10 says to “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” This turning away or rejection is an action on the part of the true follower of Christ against the one with the false claim. This is not done rashly, for as Paul says it is done only after and first and second warning. While Christians are to be kind and gentle, they are also supposed to be strong and firm toward those who would hurt the flock.
The attitude that Christians should have is expressed well in Galatians 6:1-4. “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; [each one] looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”
We are not to approach people from a position of self-righteousness. We are to be humble, yet we are to confront. The major purpose of that confrontation is given to us in Matthew 18:15. Jesus said, “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” The goal is correct and to win the brother back and restore him to fellowship, so the first step is go and reprove him I private.
What happens if he does not respond? Verse 16 of Matthew 18 says, “But if he does not listen [to you,] take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.” These witnesses act as a protection by establishing the truth by confirming the facts of what is said and the responses. It prevents unfounded accusations from going any further. They also bring additional pressure to bear on someone who actually is in sin.
What happens if the one in sin still does not repent and remain defiant? Verse 17 “And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.”