Growing up in the church you experience different types of conflicts among those who belong to that particular church. Granted, the church is made up of humans and where humans are concerned, there is going to be conflicts. Some conflicts are due to real, serious concerns, while others are due to pettiness over things that shouldn’t matter. It’s in these conflicts, whether serious or petty, that the devil takes delight. Nothing gives him more satisfaction than to see believers quarrel with one another, especially over trivial matters.
Let’s talk about conflicts that take place over petty issues. These are the conflicts that have split churches over what color of carpet they would buy, or what color fabric to upholster the pews, or what color paint to put on the walls. I heard of a church split up in Tennessee where the conflict was over whether the softball team should put the players’ names on the back of their jerseys. It’s rather sad that these folks let something so minute in importance divide a congregation. Sometimes all it takes is ONE person being the dissenter and then others will follow. People have left churches over issues that have no bearing whatsoever on the gospel. These are the types of conflicts that causes the church or just a few people in the church to be ineffective in their faith. They get so hung up on their opinion about how THEY think things should be that they would rather forego fellowship with their fellow believers than to admit that they are being petty. There may be those who will use some petty grievance as an excuse to leave the church. Either way, nothing gratifies the devil more than to make a person ineffective in their faith by getting them hung up on trivial/petty issues to the point that they stop worshiping or leave for another church because they don’t agree with certain issues.
The matters I spoke about in the paragraph above this are conflicts based on human opinion and, sometimes, pride. These are issues which should never divide a church or cause someone to leave. If there’s one issue that should always be of upmost importance, it’s the doctrine that is being preached from the pulpit. If a pastor or Sunday School teacher is teaching doctrine that doesn’t line up with Scripture, then, by all means, someone needs to confront (in a loving manner) that pastor or teacher and question them about their doctrine. Dangerous doctrine is of much more importance than what color of paint, upholstery, or carpet is being used in the place where the church assembles. Churches have split over what is being taught in the pulpit. It could be the pastor is preaching a false gospel and members call him out on it and he doesn’t relent, those members have left for another church that does preach sound doctrine. Or maybe the pastor IS preaching sound doctrine and a certain number of his congregation stirs up dissention to get rid of him because they don’t like his interpretation of Scripture, but the pastor and the other members hold their ground and cause the dissenters to leave. It is that kind of conflict (the defense of the gospel), while it does cause much disappointment and heartache among the congregants, that will separate the sheep from the goats, and in the end, God will bless those who will take a stand for the true gospel.
We must be careful of what we focus our attention on. If we get too hung up on the aesthetics of the building or on the activities of the congregation, but won’t defend Scripture against those who twist it and misinterpret it, then we should question why we’re there in the first place. There’s no such thing as a perfect church because imperfect people attend there, but when it comes to the gospel, there is no room for softening the message or watering it down for the purpose of having a large congregation. The preaching of the hard truth of the gospel will always cause conflict, but it will also cleanse the invisible, universal church (the church as a whole, not just the local body) of those who are false converts.
Conflict is no fun no matter what setting it’s in. But when it comes to the gospel, we as believers, must stand firm and ready to defend it no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel or who abandons us for our stance. We shouldn’t go around looking for conflict, but when someone’s teaching doesn’t line up with Scripture, we have to be ready to defend it. Defending it doesn’t mean bashing people over the head with the Bible, but presenting the necessary Scripture and it’s correct interpretation and then letting the Holy Spirit do His work to help them understand. It is His job to give them understanding, we just stand back and pray that He will.