The Residue of Division
res·i·due The remainder of something after removal of parts or a part. When someone (or a group of someones) decides to break away from a local congregation, a series of things are set into motion that mostly remain beneath the surface for a while. All we really know is that it hurts. But after a while the talk dies down, and the supposed reasons for the departure are diagnosed. Life goes on ... but there remains a residue from division that needs to be exposed so that a little deeper healing can occur. What is the residue of division? The Loss of Friendship. It's hard to maintain a healthy relationship with someone who has basically said that they cannot worship the Lord in the same room with you. Even if you try, after a while it becomes a conflicted type of relationship that causes about as much pain as it does anything else. The people who are left behind sometimes do not realize that they have been insulted. (I was smart enough to leave, but you weren't!) The Creation of Tender Subjects. Now we have some new 'off limits' topics around which to maneuver. If we bring up these sore subjects, we might actually cause someone else to leave. Or we may upset someone who just wants to let well enough alone. Or we might become prideful and pompous in talking about things that once caused such a stir that people actually left the congregation! Most of these subjects are not worth much of our time, but they become touchstones of faithfulness in the minds of some. The Lingering Deciders. If my friends of many years left the congregation, and if I have my own questionable feelings about some things going on 'down at church', then maybe I ought to leave too! And so there can be a trickling stream of those who are ready to desert their church family in search of another one. The Underlying Self Doubt. Oh yes, it could be true that those who left were right to leave! Perhaps my own pride wouldn't let me see it ... and maybe I'm just too unapproachable for them to come to my face and discuss it ... and perhaps I should have known ... and ... well ... it's endless. These waves of self-doubt make us weak at the knees. The Uncomfortable Moments. Bumping into people who you used to regard as your friends at Wal-Mart. Maybe they go another congregation across town, but there's that silent awkwardness. "So, how's things at your new church?" just doesn't sound right. The Inevitable Losses. In all of the posturing and defensiveness, some of the weaker brothers and sisters will be lost. They will not find another congregation. They will just check out of the church altogether. The Fateful Decision. Should we approach those who left, find out what they didn't like, fix it, and hope they come back? Or should we see the road ahead of us as the leading of God and press on in the best way we know how? The Loss of Kingdom Vision. By the way, while we're busy checking out all of these items, let's not forget that the lost world needs the gospel ... if you can get to it. There's probably much more residue...but it's there. And it doesn't go away. Right now I'm thinking that it never goes away. It's going to take some major grace to scrub that mess off of the Kingdom.