Stories about churches repeatedly reveal internal conflicts over leadership, worship styles, doctrinal issues, philosophy of evangelism or attitudes toward other groups espousing faith in Jesus Christ. Some believe that the situation in churches of Christ reflects conflicts throughout Christendom. Followers of Christ, however, must be distressed that Jesus’ prayer for the unity of his disciples has been ignored. (John 17)
All human experiences bear out the difficulty of unity, harmony in attitude and action, and oneness. The fundamental problem is mankind’s persistent desire to be the best or the most powerful. Even at the end of Jesus’ loving teaching and direction for his apostles, they still had not understood that greatness, as God sees it, comes from being the greatest servant and having a childlike spirit. The disciples scrambled for the highest positions in the Kingdom, and so did the leaders of the church during its early history in the first and second centuries.
Here at the beginning of the third millennium all Christendom continues to fight and divide, ignoring Jesus’ prayer for unity. Among believers who sought to restore the teachings and practices of the first century church, divisions have occurred with disquieting regularity. Even now some believe that the churches of Christ have again experienced a major split. Among the most conservative Christians and congregations, some churches and some people are viewed as heretics who have totally abandoned Biblical authority. Among the most liberal Christians and churches, some churches and some people are viewed as unenlightened protectors of traditions and a legalistic and simplistic view of Biblical truths.
The plight of mankind has always been complicated by man’s ego. Jesus repeatedly warned about the dangers of pride. Thoughtful believers for nearly 2,000 years have viewed pride as the root sin. Pride has often been the underlying cause of church splits and divisions. Individuals or groups grasp for power over a church or several churches or a whole movement.
The church’s problems have been further complicated by a growing inattention to Scripture. Too many people gain all their knowledge of God’s word from what they hear in Sunday teaching. Similarly believers often base convictions on traditional practices without ever examining those practices in light of the Bible. God wants us to be one — in Him. I pray that we can overcome our pride that spoils our relationships with brothers and sisters. I pray that we will be students of the Word so that we know truth from tradition
or pop religion.