Maybe you know this kind of church. Maybe, in fact, you’re a member of one. This is the church whose history is filled with internal squabbling. The community knows them as the “fighting church.” Based on my experience of consulting and studying similar churches, here are some of the reason these churches exist:
- A very real enemy seeks to sow division among God’s people. Satan surely delights when believers turn on each other . . . and then do it again . . . and again. He knows our witness is harmed when we continually shoot each other in the back.
- They’re led by a bunch of laity who are immature believers. In many cases, they’ve honestly never been discipled to know how to act differently. They’re still responsible for their actions and choices, but they act like baby believers because that’s who they really are.
- They’re sometimes led by laity who aren’t believers at all. Nothing they do suggests that they’ve ever had a conversion experience. They’re leading only because they’ve been faithful in attendance—not because they’re walking with the Lord.
- Stronger believers leave the church rather than wait for change. And, right or wrong, they often leave quietly so they don’t create further turmoil. When you know conflict is the church’s history, you don’t see much hope in hanging in there to wait for the congregation to get its act together.
- Weaker believers just get tired of the fight. They’re so accustomed to being in conflict that they’ve come to accept it as the norm. “That’s just the way so and so is,” they say, “and it’s not going to change.” They almost expect conflict to happen—and it does.
- They’ve come to view the church as a place to retreat from the world rather than a place to get re-armed for the battle. That is, the church is their fortress, a place to be protected. Congregations who see themselves as guardians of their tradition rather than lighthouses for the gospel tend to fight a lot.
- The church has been reduced to one controlling family, and they don’t even get along with each other. It’s amazing (and sad) to watch, actually. The “family” stands against everyone else, and then they stand against each other after they’re run off everyone else.
- Nobody’s ever called the congregation to repentance. Every new pastor assumes he can lead the church in a different direction. Then, it doesn’t happen, and the pastor finds it tough to deal with the garbage. He becomes the next in line of short-term pastors, and he leaves for another ministry (or no ministry at all if he’s seriously wounded). Nobody ever confronts the church.
What would you add to this list?