When a congregation is working in unity, the cause of Christ is greatly blessed, and Satan’s cause is threatened. A unified congregation is a powerful force in any community, and Satan knows this. Therefore, there are certain tools or devices which Satan effectively uses to disrupt congregational unity. It would be wise for us to be well aware of these and devoutly avoid them, “for we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices,” (2 Cor. 2:11). Following are some of the more common disruptions to congregational unity:
- Marital and Family Strife. It may seem strange to head the list with a domestic matter, which at first glance seems unrelated to the work of the church. But, experience has shown that family turmoil is one of the greatest disruptions to church unity. Congregations are made up of individual domestic family units. When husbands and wives are not speaking to each other, or are doing so “grudgingly or of necessity,” the church suffers. Men are the spiritual leaders of their families, and need to be able to speak respectfully and enthusiastically to their wives and children about the work of the church. Their insights and optimism will be an inspiration to the family, and will encourage the family to be excited and fully engaged in the work. Strong families make for strong churches. Unscriptural marriages, unbiblical family arrangements, and strife-ridden domestic households, hinder and eventually destroy the unity of the church. These things need to be addressed and corrected immediately.
- Pride and Ego. Spiritually-immature members, especially when they somehow get into positions of influence or leadership, can wreak havoc upon the unity of the church. One who thinks of himself as important because he is “in charge” of something, can actually be a hindrance and discouragement to those trying to build a unified work. Such people are usually dissatisfied about something, and are constantly getting upset because everything is supposed to be about them. In contrast, Paul said, “doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself,” (Philippians 2:3).
- Sin in the Camp. When there is secret sin in the life of any member, it is impossible for that member to be faithfully walking with God and his people. He may deny the sin, and fool others for a while, but eventually these things take their toll. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves… if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 Jn. 1:8-9). When Jericho was destroyed, Achan secretly took some of their spoils, and his secret “sin in the camp” caused great destruction and misery for God’s people, (Josh. 6-7). The Lord always sees what is happening, even in secret, and warns us that such sins interfere with our faithful walk with God, (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7).
- Jealousy and Competition. President Reagan used to keep a small plaque on his desk in the oval office, with a quotation based upon the following words of Charles Montague: “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.” There is a lot of wisdom in this. In the church, we need to remember that we are but servants of God, seeking his glory, not ours. It does not matter who gets the credit for advances and successes in the Lord’s army. God is the one whom we are attempting to glorify. When we become jealous and suspicious of each other, we devour one another. And Paul warned that “if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another,” (Gal. 5:15).
- Identity Politics. When cliques and exclusive groups are fostered within the church, unity is shattered. For example, “the youth group” and “the seniors” and “the young professionals” and “the ladies” are all portions of the same body, and should never be arrayed against one another. “Seeing that we, who are many, are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the one bread,” (1 Cor.10:17). And that bread is Jesus Christ. “Youth ministers” do no service to the church when they forget that the young people are a part of the church, and they are not exclusive of the body. Seniors should interact with the youth, and the issues facing our ladies should be of interest to us all.
Unity is both “good and pleasant,” (Ps. 133:1). But it can be destroyed if we are not careful. Let us be aware of these devices, and never let him disrupt the unity of the church!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.