Separation is to the protestant church what kryptonite is to Superman. In my opinion, separation is the bitter herb of the Protestantism Reformation.
Separations marks are seen in every corner & practice of the church. Nearly every denomination began when one group of people decided they didn’t agree to the point that they needed to start another group of churches. When a leader grows to a certain point in protestantism– a symbol of that power is to create their own ministry. The way we do communion has resulted in separation. The way we do baptism has resulted in separation. The way our churches are governed has resulted in separation. The songs we sing, the way we preach, the Bible we read, on and on… we are a people marked by separation. (Yes, wars have even been fought over some of these things.)
How many flavors of Presbyterian are there? How many flavors of Methodist? How many flavors of Baptist? Do you even know why they separated in the first place? Would you blush if you examined the issues there? Probably, at least a little.
It’s in our DNA to separate. When something happens that we are uncomfortable with our gut reaction is to push away and separate. The cost of unity is seen as too great a sacrifice in the face of personal views on doctrine and practice or even personality.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. – Matthew 5:9
Leaning into making peace
If pushing away is natural to us. We need Jesus’ power to help us to lean in to peacemaking.
While our instincts are to separate, our minds know we are stronger together. We are better together. We are more effective together. We utilize resources better together. We are encouraged when we work together. The world listens to those who work together.
When we do stuff together we stick out. It feel right because it is good!
When we chose unity over separation our distinctives merely add flavor to our lives instead of souring the pot.
Conversely, when the trivial, non-essential, and personal preference cause us to separate we need to call it out for what it is– sin. Jesus called the peacemaker blessed, literally happy. So what does that make those of us who separate?
5 Ways to be a Peacemaker in Your Community
- Take the first step towards reconciliation. Examine the history of your church. For example: Is there a First Church and a Second Church in your town? Separated because of race in a bygone era? Reach out to the other congregation. Ask for their forgiveness. I’m not saying you need to merge congregations… but you will never know the power of reconciliation until you take the first step and humbly ask to have coffee with the other churches leaders.
- Develop a sister church friendship with another congregation in your zip code. This doesn’t have to be formal or difficult. But begin the process of your staff getting to know and blessing the staff of the other congregation. Even if it’s just a quarterly prayer breakfast… that’s a step towards making peace. As your congregations develop a sister relationship you will begin to see the fruit of that blessing.
- Support good ideas in town. When another congregation has a great idea jump on the bandwagon. Cancel stuff in your church and lend your staff and resources to the idea. Carry an attitude of what’s good for the Kingdom is good for our church.
- Support community organizations in town. I was shocked at how easy this was. When I’ve reached out to community organizations doing good things and said, “We’d like to help. Not to make our name great or to even tell people about the church, just to make this a great place to live.” That simple, easy, free step has lead to infinite blessings for the church.
- Mediate the divide. What would happen if your church became neutral ground for discourse and disagreement? What if your staff became known as people who went to community board meetings and helped develop 3rd option compromises?
Next steps: What if the people of your church started to see themselves literally as peacemakers in their job places?
What are your ideas for the church becoming known as a place where peace is made, at all cost?