I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church.
1 Corinthians 1:10-18.
Yesterday, an elderly couple leaving a beautiful village church after the service saw my clerical collar as I passed by on a walk through that village. I had stopped to admire the church, the many beautiful coloured bushes around the walks and graveyard, the flowers and plants with a vast array of colours and smells on display.
It reminded me of Kew Gardens and St James’ Park in London at the height of summer with their floral displays for all to see and enjoy.
This couple who were regular churchgoers naturally realised the colour of my clerical shirt and Pectoral Cross identified me as a Bishop, both knew it. ( Hopefully the colours not clashing with my shirt!) What a warm and refreshing feeling for me that both felt comfortable enough and at ease to strike up a conversation after just a “good morning” greeting from me. More to the point that the following statement was made! The lady came straight out with what it seems was on her mind and felt whilst present at that service. Though I am now an Independent Bishop and member of The Order of St James. This couple I took too and liked immensely.
“Why go to Church these days, even the leaders such as the Archbishop cannot reach out and unite the clergy, in fact he and many others I feel cause division amongst the clergy and members. I thought a leader of the church was to promote the Gospel! Well I do not see much of that occurring these days. Many do not even preach and keep to the Biblical Scriptures. I fear many of these individuals are reading a story from an Enid Blyton Noddy book rather than the Bible. The sermon we just had to suffer was nothing to do with any Bible content, it could well have been read from one of Enid Blyton’s books”.
Oops, I thought immediately someone has been upset! So I offered this couple my presence and time to just listen. It soon became apparent both were long standing church attendees. Both having been baptised, confirmed in the faith, married, and had their children baptised in that church.
It was so obvious whoever that Priest or Reader was at that service this couple were not impressed, they were most upset. The content of the Sermon it appears was totally inappropriate. There was a personal and hidden agenda that this priest I assume was trying to convey. One that even I have to be guarded about, less certain quarters in the clergy will make an attack upon any other clergy approaching the subject!
That is not what a Church member should feel leaving a church, the clergy are there to give encouragement, to uplift and truly preach from the Gospel, and to definitely PROMOTE such.
After our chat and a little humour to lighten the conversation, both felt more comfortable and thanked me for my time! More importantly for just listening to what they wished to express. But my time IS THEIR TIME. It has nothing to do with whatever church I or you belong to, nor denomination. As Priests our first priority is to serve God’s HOLY CHURCH, that CHURCH is the PEOPLE.
This is the policy within the Order of St James, and why these warring factions NEVER occur. If one reads the words in St James it is apparent why he kept a happy ship.
I do wish that some clergy would remember this. The People are the Church. It is clearly stated in the Bible, so they should refer to it! Even in (Luke 4 18-25).
Sadly, I too have to admit in the decades I’ve been attending Church, ordained a Priest confirming my vocation as a believer in Jesus, I’ve known of many local churches that have split due to infighting. No doubt yourselves have witnessed this occurring. It is so sad. A very close colleague and brother in Christ who lives in Devon, we have both witnessed this behaviour and on our many discussions when we meet we hear of many fringe church infighting, or break aways! We are at peace with ourselves, being Independent and serving All with no division.
Leaders fight, and congregation members rally behind their chosen side. It is not helped when then the feuding leaders prompt their supporters to form splinter congregations.
The church in Corinth was threatened by a partisan spirit (1 Corinthians 1:12). (To enable further reading on the subject matter quoted, the Bible references are shown.)
Addressing the feuding parties as “dear brothers and sisters,” Paul reminded them that they were not members of an organisation, but family members (1 Corinthians 1:10). Paul didn’t use his authority as their founding priest to demand compliance. Instead, in making his appeal “by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he reminded them that the church belongs to Jesus, not human leaders (1 Corinthians 1:9-13; Romans 14:8-9)
On the basis of loyalty to Jesus and love for the family of believers, Paul appealed to the quarrelling parties to “live in harmony with each other. . . . [To] be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
Quarrels often arise because leaders have conflicting convictions and priorities. But Paul reminds us to keep the focus on our overarching conviction and commission. We’re to be a part of the kingdom God is building, not our own version of it.
There’s only one Saviour, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1-13). And we have one priority: “To preach the Good News” (1 Corinthians 1-17).
In addressing disharmony, keep your focus on Jesus, the only Saviour and perfect LEADER of the church (Acts 2-36). Only He deserves our unquestioned allegiance and devotion (Colossians 1:18-20). By God’s power and strength, may “we preach Christ crucified!” (1 Corinthians 1:23 niv).
Let us pray that preaching the true Biblical Scripture, not personal agendas that fall far from the Gospel teachings will in future be the norm, not as now, failing to do so to satisfy personal agendas!.
Oratory of St Luke the Physician,
Swansea, Wales. UK.