“And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
Lesson 101- Don’t let secondary issues become dividing issues. For the most part, we have avoided major rifts that led to one or all of us quitting.
The basic beliefs of Christianity are that God’s Word is infallible, Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross for our sins, the virgin birth, etc. Outside of those, any issues that you feel are worth dividing over are subjective. If you are working in a “ministry” with someone but feel that there are dividing issues, I urge you to pray a lot and make sure that that is not Satan trying to get a foothold.
What do I mean by “dividing issues”? Dividing issues are issues that someone feels are so important that unless resolved, will result in him/her leaving. An example of that would be a Christian meeting someone who is a Muslim, but even after getting to know that person, deciding that they cannot marry because the Bible says not to be yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Each Christian has a basic set of beliefs. These are dividing issues in partnerships. You cannot go into ministry with someone who believes that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven. That lines up squarely against the Bible. Outside of these core beliefs, issues that people feel are worth dividing over are based on their convictions.
God can bring issues to our mind because He wants us to change something that we’re doing. But Satan can also use conflicts between believers to distract us from our mission.
“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” –Mark 3:25
Satan is aware of this, and keeps on bombarding the Church with issue after issue that results in people over here taking a different stance on the issue than people over there. Again, each issue and it’s level of importance someone attaches to it varies depending on the person. If God convicts you about an issue, then by all means obey Him. You are responsible for what God shows you to do:
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” -James 4:17
If you keep having objections or find yourself in conflict with the person you are trying to work with, evaluate it, and pray about it. See whether it is something that the Lord is convicting you about, or if it is Satan attempting to put a wedge in between you and your partner.
In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas had a strong disagreement. These two missionaries were on fire. Yet, they couldn’t agree on whether or not to bring Mark with them. Their dispute became so heated that they split! Wow! I’m sure that God was able to use that for good, but how sad it must have been to see these two pillars of the early church having such a sharp dispute that could no longer work together. While I have no idea about all the particulars of God’s plan for that situation, it would seem to me that that was a secondary issue. An issue not worth dividing over.
After we become Christians, our main goals in life is to draw closer to God, and to share Him with those we come in contact with. Check out the Great Commission:
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:16-20
This is our job. Everything else is second to this.We cannot let issues arise that keep us from being focused on spreading the Gospel. Recognize that if Satan keeps trying to make it difficult to work with your partner in your area of ministry, he knows that God is trying to work through you. He is opposed to everything God, and it makes sense that he would vehemently oppose those who are uniting together to serve Him.
Unity among believers is crucial to the spreading of the Gospel. A while ago, I came across something that Mike Donehey, the lead singer for the band Tenth Avenue North, said. I don’t remember it exactly (and I can’t find it), so I will just tell you the crux of his point. They pray before their shows that God would use them. And during one of these times, Mike felt that God was asking him if he would be alright if God used another band to really glorify Him that night, and Mike admitted that that wasn’t always his focus. He knew that they had to be “OK” if God used another band to glorify Him.
And that hits at the point of unity. As Christians, we have to be united in our pursuit of Him, bringing glory to Him, and sharing Him with others. If we allow secondary issues to get to such a point that they divide us or take our focus from what it needs to be, we need to spend some time praying and working through those things with the people we are working with.
Look at these verses I found about unity:
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” -Psalm 133:1
“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” -John 17:23
“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” -1 Corinthians 1:10
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.“ -Ephesians 4:1-3
Ok, hopefully you made it this far! This is off topic, but my favorite part of a sermon is the application part. We’re called to be doers of the Word, not just hearers (James 1:22). I don’t know…it just excites me!
Now, back on track.
About 4-5 years ago, Wyatt and I thought it would be a good idea to do a short play with some other kids from church (if you want to hear more from this story, let me know. It’s kind of funny. Great lesson in leadership) So, we wrote it and got some of the kids together for an hour or so every Sunday (for a few weeks) before the evening service. Well, the first week we are there, Wyatt and I are already disagreeing about certain elements. What props we should use, who would be in what roles, etc. For the record, he had everything straight. It was mostly me with the dumb ideas (throwing a football inside the sanctuary). That was the first time that I’d been in a leadership role with someone else. It turned out to be a great lesson in how to lead with someone else.
Anyway, we ended up having several differences of opinion that came up over the next couple weeks. We both really wanted it to be our way. What I learned through all of that is that besides the Bible, compromise is your next-best friend! You have to be willing to give and take or meet somewhere in the middle. If you’re not getting anywhere by compromising, maybe you could…get ready for it…give way to the other person! This is something I’m still working on. I’m competitive by nature, so I kinda enjoy trying to get my way. And when you think about it, God probably prefers that we do that. We have to selfless. Like our theme verse says, we are “crucified with Christ.” We have “put off the old man and put the new man on.”
If we had not compromised on little things, those little disagreements would have gotten bigger and bigger and possibly divided us. Thankfully, that didn’t happen!
Challenge for This Week:
If you have a blog, a website, or something that you are doing with someone else to spread Christ, I challenge you to let them “have their way” regarding issues or ideas that come up. Even if it’s with a sibling, if you handle it, it will reflect on Christ well. Unbelievers will notice a difference. You will have a disagreement about something. I guarantee it. How you respond to it will make all the difference.
And one more thing- please share these posts! I really think that these posts will help people be able to work together more effectively for the kingdom of Christ.
Have a great week!