Tuesday, December 5, 2006

A House Divided

Go to the average church and you’ll find divisions. Group A separates itself from Group B, while Group B doesn’t want to be around Group C. I realize that these groups could represent many different things from church to church. Maybe there is a disagreement over a theological issue. Maybe there is a conflict over the style of music. Divisions vary among congregations.

But what if I were to tell you that there are certain divisions common in almost every church? I guarantee that I can name some of the divisions in your church. Test me on this:
-Group A= Children’s Ministry
-Group B= Youth Ministry
-Group C= Adult Ministry (which is further divided)
>Group C1= Senior Adult Ministry
>Group C2= Men’s/Women’s Ministry
>Group C3= Young Married Ministry
>Group C4= Singles Ministry
>Group C5= College Ministry

Am I right? If you attend a fairly large church, the odds are that your congregation is divided into these groups and that you have a minister specifically for each group!
You’re probably thinking, “What’s wrong with this? These kinds of divisions aren’t bad.” I do not mean to suggest that a children’s ministry is evil or that hiring a Youth Minister is demonic. That is certainly not the case.
However, I do mean to suggest that the divisions we have set are unbiblical and harmful to the body of Christ. Allow me to prove both points.

1) It Is Unbiblical – I’ll begin with a question. Should a woman serve as a Youth Minister? If you have an answer for that question, it is your own opinion and not a matter of Scripture. The Bible doesn’t tell us if a woman may serve as a Youth Minister. Why? Because the Bible mentions nothing about youth ministry. It is a division that we have created.
The Bible doesn’t speak about children/youth/singles ministries. In fact, the biblical example is opposed to our divisional ministries. The biblical example, best set forth in Titus 2, instructs us to combine rather than divide. In Titus 2, the Lord commands the older men to teach younger men and the older women to teach younger women. Yet what do we do in our churches? The senior adults go to Shoney’s for breakfast and the youth go skiing. The two groups are never together for any genuine fellowship! This is unbiblical.
The biblical picture is one of different people from different walks of life uniting under the banner of the cross. What do a 17 year old girl and a 45 year old woman have in common? Jesus. What can a 25 year old single guy and a 73 year old widower talk about? Jesus. That is a radically beautiful thought! O, for churches like this!

2) It Is Harmful – This reason is why I’ve blogged on this topic. As a pastor, I love God’s Church. I don’t want to see it damaged in any way. But our divisions are harming us. Youth aren’t receiving the wisdom of their elders because they’re never together. Singles aren’t receiving preparation for marriage because they’re never around the married people. Children aren’t witnessing Dad & Mom worship the Lord because the kids are taken off to Children’s Church. This hurts everyone.
And rather than have everyone involved in ministry, we hire men to do the job for us. I should be teaching a teenager how to study the Bible, not a youth minister. You should be praying for and encouraging that college student, not a college minister. Ministry isn’t for the
“professionals,” it’s for us, the average church folks. This divisional mentality has stolen ministry from the people pews. I say we get it back.

What do you think?


Jarod said...

Very well articulated Josh. We do have needless division in our churches. It is due in part to our American culture of independence and comfort. No one wants to open themselves up by pouring themselves into another person. True love as God commands us to have for one another is risky and the freedom God purchased through Jesus on the cross should be enough to free us to be risk takers in love for one another.

Josh Culbertson said...

Amen Jarod. The culture certainly has negative effects on the church, which is why we must fight to be biblical and not cultural.

Balloon Master Vaughn said...

When Paul went to various cities he would used cultural norms to reach the people with a gospel message. In American culture our sexes and age groups divide themselves. This is not something the church started, but it is something the church accepted. I believe your question would be more appropriately aimed as to whether the church should accept those cultural difference within the church? To be honest I am not positive on this course though I may suggest that when it comes to reaching these various groups outside the church these divisions would be appropriate, but not neccessarily when it comes to discipleship.

Josh Culbertson said...

Spud - my opinion on the culture issue is that the American culture has been abandoned by God (John MacArthur's terminology, not mine) therefore, the last thing we want to do is be like the culture.

Deborah Wheeler said...

Joshua, You are fixing to be shocked...I agree we shouldn’t do things (division) as we do in church. I think our ministries should be together and then separated by sexes. When are we biblically teachings boys to be men and girls to be women?
I went to our deacons when you were a youth and asked for "mentors", I asked that the men of our church take the responsibility to invest in our young men, and then I would get help with the girls. I realize the importance of this when I see some of my youth drifting and following the ways of the world under peer pressure and “fun”. Sure sometimes I can get someone to speak to them but what they need is someone to invest time in their lives that aren't their parents but their spiritual friend and mentor. From the time they begin Sunday School boys should be taught to be Godly men, then as they grow they should be taught how to guard girls’ hearts and so on. Godly men can only do this, I can’t. My heart breaks for one right now that desperately needs a Godly man in his life and I have went to many men in our church and yet nobody has chosen to invest their time into him and he doesn't have a man at home. He doesn’t need a “good talkin’ to, he NEEDS someone.

It is the future of our churches that is suffering, the older wiser are doing their thing and sitting back and questioning those of us working and saying things like "how come them kids don't come on Sunday morning?" Well, is that the question for numbers or is that a question because you have a genuine concern for the spiritual life of that child?
So we are back to if they don't step up then we have to step in.
Services at church are where we learn and develop our relationship with Christ. But an investment in people’s lives is where the value reaches and benefits the Church and our community then even our country. We have wonderful Ra's, Ga's, acteens - that is men teaching boys, women teaching girls but there is no investment outside of that!

I am not as good with what I want to say but the division at church is a result from the divisions we place in society. Christian men and women have to "go", "do", "invest" outside of the walls of Church. When this happens men will take responsibility for boys and women responsibility for girls. Quit making sure we hit the numbers, quit making sure we meet the monetary goal to be top ten in giving (not talking about tithing or giving) and start meeting the goal of giving of ourselves the way God intended. I have seen what investing in lives can do for the Glory of God and I would love to take the kids on a mountain retreat (and ski one day) and fellowship but have men doing boys and women doing girls...should I dream on?

In this division we have placed or accepted, whichever you chose to call it, we are “clicking”. Most elders feel they have done their part and now it is someone else’s turn. It is their time to do the “older stuff” but that can’t be God’s way because with age comes wisdom He designed that. I cherish the wisdom. Some of my favorite times are riding in the van with Richard Culbertson to get the van kids. He shares so much and is so wise.

I guess what all my ramblings are leading to Joshua is that you are so right and we can see the pitfall from the divisions we have placed in our churches. It is a never-ending cycle. A wise women I work with told me when she was little she wondered why the old men and women were mad at each other because they would come to church and separate and nobody else did. But you see the wisdom of our elders’ shows we need to be taught by the same sex. Why don’t we take heed and pass this on?

Sorry I rambled

Josh Culbertson said...

Great points, Debbie. These are words from a youth worker who has seen first-hand the problems with church divisions. Thanks for your insight! I hope to blog specifically on youth ministry one day soon. I think the biblical model is far from what most of us think.