How can Canadian churches deal with division? Two pastors in Kelowna, B.C., discuss (on video) a small group approach designed to bring divided Christians together.
An Evangelical Fellowship of Canada survey in 2021 found evangelical Christians are the most polarized and conflicted segment of Canadian society when it comes to pandemic mandates.
That there are diverse opinions – even divisions – should not particularly surprise nor disturb us. These diversities should be expected during a once-in-a-century (we pray) event when everyone is tired, and some are grieving.
However, if “worship wars” about which music God like best splintered us two or three decades ago, chances are our resiliency and capacity to wade through the waters of vaccines, masks and the political tremors we’re all feeling is not very strong.
Have we really become a people incapable of working through problems while we staying at the Lord’s table?
Human community comprised of differing personalities, histories, traumas, opinions and gifts will have challenges. Paul, hearing of the divisions among first century disciples in Corinth, reminded the saints, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1 Corinthians 11:19).
Differences usually do reveal what and who is genuine. Christlike character shines when things are tense.
Divisions can lead to a strengthening of the church’s witness as we learn to humble ourselves, forgive and love, and embody the teachings of Jesus together. In this our light shines and people praise our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Despite what has been happening in too many evangelical fellowships over the last year in particular, differences do not need to lead to schism and separation.
The most disastrous consequence of the pandemic for the witness of Christ in our land will not be caused by the virus or how long we need to mask, but in our inability to work through what is ripping us apart.
We need to recover the blessedness of peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). We need to return to these words: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).
The unity of the body of Christ is not something we create, but something we have come into by repentance and faith and have been commanded by Scripture to maintain and keep. We contend for what Christ has gloriously accomplished through His broken body (Ephesians 2:14) and the Spirit has been poured out to create.
To not make every effort to do this is afront to our very identity as the body of Christ. It is to dismember Christ. It is, to put it bluntly, sin. Our biblical mandate is this work – and it is most needed precisely when it is most difficult to do. Which, it seems clear, is right now.
If you’re reading this you probably know at least one fellowship stricken by division, polarization and schism sparked by the last two years. What is the way through? Can we un-fracture our churches? Can we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace?
One church in Kelowna, British Columbia has been working at this through a small group approach specifically designed to bring divided Christians together. This is no easy task, but it is bearing fruit as you can hear from Pastor Joel Lise in the following interview.
Phil Wagler is North American network coordinator for the World Evangelical Alliance’s Peace and Reconciliation Network and serves as a pastor in Kelowna, B.C. Photo of questioning man by Ayo Ogunseinde on UnSplash. This blog series is produced in collaboration with the WEA PRN. Read all the posts at faithtoday.ca/reconciling.