Church Splits

Unlike the Apostle Paul who spent quite a bit of time talking about how Christians should try their very best to get along with each other, fundamentalists have turned the process of having a church split into something of an art form.

Recipe for a church split:

Needed: 1 fundamentalist church full of the usual players and sundry bit roles. For best results, ensure that the pastor shall have been at this location for no more than 5 years having replaced the former pastor who had been there since dirt and was greatly feared and revered by all as the Final Authority.

– Begin by placing a church building project in a large container and letting it sit for approximately 3 years while berating the membership for more funds.

– Take one power-hungry music director and stir well. (If possible select a fresh picked music director dreams of being a traveling evangelist who’s wife also plays the piano .)

– Blend in a scandal at the Christian school involving a grandchild of one of the members in good standing who’s offerings provide no less than 25% of the church’s annual budget. Be sure to fire at least one teacher who was well liked by no less than three fifths of the congregation without bothering to tell anybody why.

– Divide the congregants into two heaps each aligned with a faction wherein both sides may accuse the other of such gross heresies as being closet Calvinists, believing in soul sleep, or sometimes skipping Wednesday night church to go bowling in an establishment of ill repute wherein is played honky tonk music.

– Season to taste with secret business meetings, dirty tricks, parking lot confrontations, and votes of no confidence. If a zestier flavor is desired, add a handful of lawyers.

– Take whatever part of the church that shall separate from the body and place it in a new church building no more than three miles from the old church and called it Grace Baptist Church, being sure to appreciate the irony in the name.

35 thoughts on “Church Splits”

  1. How true, and how sad, that unity is so often undermined by such pointless majoring on the minors. In the area of my hometown of ~6000, it seems like there are more independent fundamental baptist churches than there are churches of all other denominations combined. I need not state, for surely my fellow readers will correctly assume, that they all split from one or two churches over the past hundred years.

  2. I love the power hungry music minister w/ aspirations! Not that it’s exclusive to music ministers. Power hunger & ministry are such a perfect mix, split or no split.

  3. Add in the one key (“majority rules”) family that chooses what’s best for everyone else. They have to know what’s best… they make up 80% of the attendees. The remaining 20% is the pastor, his family, and visitors. “Do it our way preacher or else!” I just love the ministry.

  4. Noting that 75% of the congregation was born before 1940 and cannot bear any change at all no matter how minor.

  5. Reasons I’ve seen for church splits:

    1.) Gold carpet (representing heaven) with red pews (representing Jesus’ blood) and blue trim (representing the Godhood of Christ) looks visually atrocious so new pastor tries to change the interior decorating.
    2.) Well-established church with large Christian school brings on new pastor after carefully selecting the man who would not make waves. New pastor waits six months before publicly espousing Landmark theology and KJV-onlyism (both of which he denied in his pulpit committee interviews) and drags half the church with him to another established church less than five miles away.
    3.) Gluttonous preacher (appetites for both control and fast food) force-feeds his will to his congregation, including in matters that fall outside traditional church realms (various finance stuff). A large chunk (40%) of the church bails after taking too much of this; pastor takes 40% of the remainder when he’s finally forced out.
    4.) Large historical church in urban environment has a pastor who’s been there going on 50 years. At one point the average age of the church member was in the mid-30s; by the time the pastor died the attendance had fallen below 50 and the average age had risen into the mid-60s. There was a quasi-split of sorts the first time the pastor tried retiring, only to return after he couldn’t find anyone suitable to fill his shoes, cueing a mass exodus.

    Church splits are *always* sad – what kind of message does it send the lost in the community? You can preach brotherly love in Christ and forgiveness all you want, but when you don’t put it in play and instead your church crumbles, those on the outside looking in lose all faith in your ability to meet their needs.

  6. I remember at the age of 12, our IFB church went through a split over questioning the motives of the assistant pastors asking the pastor to resign because of health. A few of the members attended the church down the road that was a part of the GARB(?). They were considered such liberals. The two churches continued to squabbled for years to come. My parents sheltered us kids from too much information. It was frustrating coming back as an adult and being caught in the middle of it all. My husband couldn’t believe how they acted, especially since he knew very little, and I didn’t know a whole lot more than he did. Hindsight is 20/20. Had I known this was still going on years after the split, I would have walked away from both churches and gone somewhere else.

  7. You forgot the “sin in the camp” message, where the pastor refers to the head of the deacon board as Achan, and how it needs to be purged. My father heard that message TWICE from TWO different preachers when he was the head of the deacon board. 🙁 Thank God for elder leadership. 🙂

  8. How about: medium-aged church with still a lot of “founding members” and kids that were born and grew up in the church. Rift in church pushes out beloved pastor who kept all the “this is OUR church” factions in check and leaves power breach. Retired, rambling, addled pastor brought in. Ridiculously power-hungry music director tries to take over. Church becomes freaky conservative and political, moderates flee. Yeah, been there!

  9. Bi-vocational preacher wants to be the “full -time” Pastor, but there is a teaching elder who is much better at preaching/teaching who is holding the Wednesday Evening service…. Wannabe bides his time…. Teaching elder mentions in a series of messages on Revelation/Daniel that there are other teachings regarding end times other than Pre-mil/Pre-trib… Wannabe immediately pounces and takes up the cause to drive heresy out of the church and in the process solidifies his control over the church. (even though the teaching elder paid off the entire building debt.) Ugly? an 11.5 on a scale of 1 to 10!

    Splinter group leaves that church goes to another. Same IFB template. Pastor after 20 years leaves to go on the mission field/ traveling evangelist. New preacher comes in and preaches the Bible. Sheeple are confused, the don’t care about such stuff a doctrine, essentials of the faith, Christian history, and Biblical Truth…. no they want good toe stompin’ preachin’. (nothing less will do) New pastor is offered a deal he cannot pass up. Pulpit committee is formed and actually interviews potential canadates. Up against a majority’s desire to return to the comfortable hard preachin style of the past the minority who heard the truth cannot stay and listen to sloppy man centered lectures and so another church splits… (yet this group did not start another church they found the only reformed “Baptist” church in the area has taken refuge there for the moment.)

    “Power hunger & ministry are such a perfect mix, split or no split….” get’s a hearty amen!

  10. I actually heard people say, “The preacher has sin in him.” I thought, “Duh! Of course he does. He’s human. We all have sin in us.” They obviously had no clue about sin. None.

  11. Words of warning for candidating pastors: If you’re candidating at a church where the former long-time pastor left on good terms (to go to the mission field or to do the traveling bit) run in the opposite direction. No matter what you do or how well you pastor, the time will come when a church faction will yearn for the good ole days and if they can’t get you out, they may end up (with the former pastor’s help) starting another church nearby.

  12. @Dan Keller! Love that! It’s as if they’ve never heard of the Donatist Controversy or don’t even know who the Novationists were. Oh, wait. It’s especially funny from Baptist who are outraged at the Catholic idea of Priests being a mediator, yet somehow Preacher or leadership has a standard of absolute perfection, and no forgiveness for sins.

  13. @Don. BTW thanks for props. I always look forward to seeing your comments on a post (still catching up on old ones here, and your comments are some of the highlights.

  14. LOL, so true, however Baptists aren’t the only one’s known for this, Mennonites are famous for their church splits.

    A Mennonite was the only survivor on a plane crash. 10 years later they found him on an Island and while he lived there he had managed to build three buildings. The Rescuers asked him “What are the buildings for?” “Well,” replied the Mennonite, “the first one is where I live, and the Third one is where I go to church.”

    “Well what’s the second one for?” asked the rescuers.

    “That’s where I used to go to church.”

    1. Heard a veriation of that old tale before. Still laughed til a bit of wee came out, then thought: that sums up so many Christians, not just Fundies and IFBers….

  15. Church at the time had a nasty split when I was in 2nd grade. One of the families who caused a decent ruckus on the way out came back around 20 years later to tearfully apologize from the pulpit. That was a healing time.

  16. While I’ve never seen this happen to a church, I did see something similar happen to both my childhood cubscout pack and the communications department at my college.

    Mind you, it was the cub scout parents that almost got violent.

  17. @rob: they HAVE heard of the novationists & donatists. unfortunately, they read about them in the trail of blood and believe that they were good baptists…

  18. mounty: “… looks visually atrocious …”

    Ya know, I was gonna tease you a bit for being redundant (“looks visually”). But in reflection that even SOUNDS visually atrocious, so I guess there’s really no redundancy. 😉

  19. As a pastor’s child… I’ve gone through this sequence so many times. Thank God I’m an atheist now!

  20. I don’t like church spilts. We had one a couple of months back.
    Don’t even remember much about what lead up to it.
    Pulpit commitee would/nt really consider asoociate pastor who whowas interum pastor even though people who would not have wanted him as pastor before wanted to give him a chance to candidate. Broughtr in man from out of state to visit. Got up to preach and tells us he’s going to tell us some things we have probably never heard before. Preavhes out of Ephephians 4 about “put of put on principle”, if IFB churches preached this people would be able to get victory over their sin. Berates present evangelism methods. The “Shotgun Approach” as he called it . Matbe if you actually listened to the person and established relationship they would get saved.”Go ahead take the Shotgun approach.” {not much of a real problem with what he said. it was the way he said it.}Very long winded. Ends his message by reading a letter from a lady from his churc hwho he and his wife helped. Helped kids learn how to read and helped lady witgh other things . The lady thanked him for various other things. The letter basically glorified him and his wife and made it seems like they were selling himself.

    Man comes back in view of a call. Is not very direct in answer to questions.

    Example: Black church member asks before church service; This city is 40% black. There used to be some black folks who came to church here, but since Pastor So and So left they don’t come . What are You going to do to get them back andd reach black people.
    His answer(no joke)- Well when my daugter was in Bible college she was going into the ghettos and having Bible clases for black children.

    I{ I don’t know if the guy thoght he was being accused of being a racist or what but he was offended by it} Later on durin the question answer time(which he took plenty of time telling how he came to be a canidate) made sure he knew his daughter was reaching black kids when she was in Bible college .

    He made sure to tell us that if he came here, he would teach us how to have a real relationship with God and take us to the next level. Would help us get rid of debt on church building which is about thirtyfive years old(In a questionair he answered he called the church a rescue mission) .
    This is such a long story and there is so much more I could type

    We voted on him two weeks later. Three members of Pulpit commitee seem extremely overconfident on vote before it even takes place talking about how much he is going to get paid. Vote is read. Church Constitutuion requries 75% of membership. He did not even get half

    Two other weeks go by. During those two weeks music director who is also Sunday school teacher teaches SS lesson to class. Go on talking about church problems.
    After two weeks are up three members of PC leave along with about 30 other church members and start new chuch in neihboring city . Claims to love city they are in and offering the city we are in new hope(they have the audacity of hope) . I percieved that as a doom sentence on our church.Some members call man and rebuke him fo spliting our church. Man’s reply- ” there wer a lot of ungodly things going on in that church” So much for Mtt18 and gal 5 instead of that quietly leave and take people with you. Most of the people who left probably voted for him. When they left there was not a pary. Interum pastor calleed us together and made sure we would not rejoice, but refrain from felolowship and if they repent and come back welcom them. They now have a building, which they claim is a blessing from God(See sucess as a sign of godliness post), and a building dedication is coming up this month

    The man actually has has an article on his website on when it is right to leave a church. I talks about when their is anger and division and the church is controlled by emotions instead of the spirit like Corinth. i’m not saying their may not have been a nd are problems, but i feel like those who left acted like this man was the only answer to them

  21. So sorry your church is going through that. You don’t know how much I can relate to your comment about how they ignored Matt. 18 and Gal. 5, but just quietly left and took people with them.

  22. @ Pastors wife : right now I’m just angry still. And I’m in doubt of whther or not they were in the right.

  23. Did you attend the church I attended? You describe us to a “T”, especially the Choir Director and his wife, and the two or three families that “own” the church and believe they “outrank” Gods will for what goes on in HIS House and His people. There is a lot of unseemly things going on and the Pastor has no desire to “buck” “these families” that “control” the rest.

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