You may be standing in a pile of church rubble, asking yourself, “What just happened?!?!?! How in the world did we get HERE??? How did we find ourselves divided against long time, trusted friends? You may be desperately trying to put the puzzle pieces together in your own mind, but they just don’t fit. Questions like, “If we’re all believers, why can’t we all just get along” may be ruminating in your mind.
Church splits are one of the most devastating things a believer can experience. It affects us body, soul and spirit. In the spiritual realm, it can make us feel cut off from God and His body. In the emotional realm, feelings of confusion, betrayal and pain replace love, joy and peace. In the physical realm, sleep disturbances, restlessness, exhaustion and sickness often set in.
I was a young mom when our church was devastated by a church split. At a time in life when demands were already naturally high, a church crisis was the last thing I needed. What had once brought so much joy and stability to our family suddenly seemed like a source of deep pain. I felt like I was in a spiritual hurricane, and I didn’t know how to get out of it. In my determination to escape the storm, I found myself ruminating. Over and over, I attempted to find a place of calm, but my way wasn’t working. Looking back, this is what I’d say to my younger self:
Ask God to search your heart. We don’t always see ourselves accurately. Sometimes we feel shame for things we didn’t do wrong. Sometimes we feel justified for things that are wrong in God’s eyes. We can have blind spots that keep us from reconciling with God and people. Psalm 139:23-24 says,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Healing from a church split requires accurate vision. We need to see ourselves, others and God accurately. We depend upon God to reveal truth to us. Confusion needs to go. Which leads to the second thing I’d tell my younger self:
Seek God in His word every day. You cannot afford to starve yourself of truth, especially when going through a spiritual tsunami. The word of God has a way of dissecting truth from lies, even when the two seem all tangled up together. Hebrews 4:12-13 says,
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight; everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account…”
God is the One who sees. He sees the condition of the hearts of His people. Everyone who was involved in the church split you’re experiencing is seen accurately by God. Only He can reveal truth to us about our own heart. We need God’s perspective. Only then will we see things from the perspective of truth. God is able to reveal to us the motives of our own heart. We need Him to help us discern truth from lies, good from evil, and right from almost right. Proverbs 14:12 says,
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
The first step in getting rid of confusion is seeing things through the lens of truth. We need understanding and certainty about what is true. Satan is a master at mixing just enough lies with truth to deceive us. This calls for humility. If everyone involved in church division will lay down pride that says, “I’m right” long enough to ask for God’s perspective, we’ll be positioned to move forward and heal.
Another thing I would tell my younger self is: Wait for confusion to give way to clarity before taking action. If God’s perspective still looks a little fuzzy, stop! Wait for it before making any major life changes, i.e., speaking to church leaders, changing churches, aligning with a “side.” Wait on God. Press in if you don’t have certainty about His perspective. Consider going on a fast if you aren’t getting revelation. John 10:27 says,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Choose to trust God to guide you. He promises He will. Psalm 32:8 says,
“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will give you counsel and watch over you.”
Stay in a posture of waiting and faith until you get clarity on what God is saying to you. He is faithful, and He will give you what you need.
The last thing I’d tell my younger self is: Own responsibility for your part in the church split. Even if it’s 1%, deal with your own sin. Apologize. Make amends. Be honest with yourself about your motives. Remember that there is grace for the journey as long as we trust in Jesus’ work on the cross. Shame no longer has power over us. Labels no longer get to define us. We are blameless, and holy in His sight as long as we continue in the faith. (Col. 1:22)
May your hearts find healing and peace in Him,