We divide ourselves along human lines
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-7)
A generation ago, divisions among Christians were predominantly drawn along denominational lines, but with the explosion of non-denominational and evangelical Christian churches, things have changed. Today many Christians distinguish themselves based on who their leaders are more than what denomination they belong to. This was certainly the case in the first century church at
For many of the Christians at Corinth, leaders like Paul and Apollos had become more than brothers in Christ, they had become elevated in the minds of their followers, they had become leaders of become leaders of churches and leaders of movements and for those who gathered around their ministry and leadership, they became a distinction by which fellow believes divided themselves. This is not to say that Paul or Apollos elevated themselves, but it was the people who elevated them in their own estimation and used Paul and Apollos as symbols to divide the body of Christ.
Many churches today are leader, or pastor, focused. Many people’s affinity to their church is based on their pastor’s or leader’s ministry. Loyalty to the church is often equated to loyalty to the pastor or leader. When a believer’s identity to the body of Christ is found in their identity to their pastor or leader, then we become like those in the Corinthian church who say, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos.” Paul tells us that when we make distinctions among believers based on who are leaders or pastors are, then we prove ourselves to be carnal and fleshly. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves.
- Is the primary goal and purpose of our programs and efforts to increase our church’s attendances, finances, and commitment among its members or is it to expand the
? Kingdomof God
- Do we rejoice as much when God is blessing another church in town as we do when God is blessing our church?
- Are we just as likely to partake of the ministry of another church or group as we are that of our own church?
- Do any of our regular corporate expressions of our faith include the fellowship with believers from other churches or only with those from our own church?
- Do we boast about the ministry of our church and that of our pastor and/or leader or do we boast about what God is doing in the earth?
The truth is that God has placed ministry, including pastors and leaders, in the body to benefit the whole Body of Christ. Paul concludes his rebuke to the Corinthian church saying, “So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) God has given your pastor and the pastor at the church down the street for your benefit, and for the benefit of the entire body. They are not “your” pastor; they are the body’s pastor. They are not “your” leader; they are leaders within the Body of Christ. God has not given our pastors and leaders that we might divide the Body of Christ but rather that they might be a blessing to the whole body. Let us no longer divide ourselves around those whom we call “leader” for “all things belong to us.”