The 6 Biggies

If you know anything about me or my ministry you know I have a real desire for the church to work together instead of tearing one another apart. I’m done with the finger pointing and cheap shots. However, if there is ever going to be unity we do need to be aware of the issues that divide us and be committed to talking through our differing opinions in Christ like ways.

I read an interesting article on Relevant.com that identified the six things that divide Christianity. You can read the entire article HERE but they were…

1. Homosexuality. This is an explosive issue and is only going to get more explosive within the Christian church in the years to come. It’s the single biggest challenge facing the Church…

2. Universalism. The recent blow-up over Rob Bell’s Love Wins is just the tip of the iceberg on this one. Shortly after Justin Taylor’s first “shot heard round the world” post about “Universalist?” Rob Bell, theologian Scot McKnight wrote on his blog that “Universalism, or at least the prospect of it, is the single most significant issue running through the undercurrent of evangelicalism today…

3. Politics. The hyper-partisan atmosphere (fueled by a media that feeds on divisiveness) of contemporary politics has already wreaked havoc within Christianity, where Christian leaders and many churches seem to be more vocal about aligning with one or the other side of the political spectrum…

4. Evolution. This has been a divisive issue for a long time, and continues to be…

5. Women in Ministry. Evangelical writers and students like to talk about this issue in terms of “egalitarian” vs. “complimentarian,” but essentially it’s a debate about the role of women in church. Can they be leaders? Pastors? What kind of pastors? Are there distinct roles for men and women, both in the married relationship and in the church…

6. The Internet. This may seem like a strange thing to blame for divisiveness, but I’m more and more convinced that the Internet and its accompanying glut of niche communities, insular blog networks and an almost requisite mode of mud-slinging discourse has caused all sorts of fragmentation and dissension in the Church…

Thoughts? Would you add anything to the list?

66 Responses to “The 6 Biggies”

  1. One we have witnessed first hand is reformation theology. Oh my goodness, can that be a divisive one. Whether it is the “right” theology or not, it causes a huge division and also created a huge subculture of reformation theologist who can be rather elitist when it comes down to it. I grew up PCA and am my theology probably even lies more this direction, but I am just calling it like I see it. Sometimes, theology in and of itself is used by the Enemy to cause us to turn inward as a church and can be extremely harmful, especially to those new to the faith and not as “educated”.

    • Tapper says:

      Yes, this would be my number one. Armenians vs Calvinists. It’s very divisive. Some of my non reformed Christian friends get very bitter over this issue.

      • Pete Wilson says:

        I know you were reformed Tapper! It’s all making sense. :)

      • Los says:

        As a “reformed” guy, I do agree that this can be a divisive issue that need not be. I think whatever your theology, so long as it is about Jesus we can learn a lot from each other. I think men like Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, James MacDonald, Perry Noble and Steve Furtick have gone a far way to open those discussions and bridge some of these gaps (the Elephant Room for example). I know this gets some of the other reformed bloggers a bit upset, but I think it is important to learn from those we may disagree with on secondary issues.

        We got a real enemy who is gaining footholds in the U.S. daily, so we need to stop throwing grenades at other foxholes and get side by side, accept differences, and even learn from one another, and get in the game to change lives, and be an impact for the Kingdom during our small time here on earth.

        Just my 2 cents.

  2. “educated” being used here in a facetious tone. ;)

  3. dan says:

    I’ve never thought of the internet being something that causes division in the church, that’s a rather astute observation.

    I think if there were anything I would add, it would be the future disputes over the authority of scripture. Looking at where the church in America is headed, & the fact that so many people know ascribe to the belief that truth is relative; I feel that disputes over the authority of scripture are almost inevitable.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      Agreed and it already showing to be an issue even in the midst of the 6 issues listed in the post.

    • Lauren says:

      Absolutely. I’ll readily admit the idea of literal translation is a major issue for me. I feel like I’m doing myself and others who I could be witnessing to a disservice by picking and choosing what scripture to quote/truly stand behind. But how do I reconcile this? (This can definitely be combined with #1 on the original list about homosexuality.)

      • John says:

        Literal is the only way to go, but you have to educate yourself a little regarding the history of the Bible and who the writer is talking to. There are things that were written in the NT that applied before the Ascension. We’ve all heard preachers rip something out of context then build a whole belief system around it. You get into trouble fast when you do that. The Bible and God’s Plan has to be looked at as a “whole” in order to begin to grasp it. Jesus told the disciples a lot of things that applied to them only and most of it was never recorded. Pray for God to show you and see what happens.

  4. Do you think Pete the disputes over multi-site are over? Has it been accepted now? How about the role of the pastor and the power he yields. I think as things get looser in the world/church, I wonder if legalism will kick up again in an attempt to combat it.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      Good question Bill. I think it’ somewhat over in the sense that those who think “multi-site” are effective are trying it and those who don’t simply aren’t.

      Even in my own head I’m still processing the pro’s and con’s though. I still think we’ve got a lot to learn on this topic.

  5. Amy says:

    I was shaking my head yes to all of these until it got to #6. Maybe I just haven’t seen it played out yet. But yes, #1 is huge…I know personally I’m struggling through how to align to God’s word (and even figuring out what that means) and also be graceful. And also how that plays in to #3 – politics! Yikes!

    • John says:

      Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We often forget that each believer is at a different place in their spiritual life, learns in different ways, and at a different rate. No two of us are alike.
      However, the Bible promises the Holy Spirit will be our Teacher and Helper. We forget that many of these things are spiritually discerned. Patience and determination is what is required to grow. It is possible to learn the Truth. If it wasn’t, why bother?

  6. Bill says:

    Mega-churches. I find it shocking how many Christians believe that a mega-church can not possibly speak Truth and ‘they’ must be watering down the Gospel. I’m not sure if jealousy is at the core of this, or if they’re starting to believe their own (false) impressions.

    • Amber-Lee says:

      Bill, I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe all mega-churches do this, but I couldn’t ever attend a mega-church again due to the experience I had. So I was very against mega-church for a long time. Not due to jealous, but due to heartache.

    • John says:

      Some mega churches are very prone to corruption. We need to look at what they are teaching and especially who they support before we pass judgement.

    • Louis Tagliaboschi says:

      John,

      Shouldn’t we do this with whatever church we attend? Why single out the “mega” church?

  7. Matt Legere says:

    I think I’d add the Expression of the Holy Spirit to the list. More and more, there is a divide between those that believe that the Holy Spirit is still expressing Himself through Gifts of the Spirit and there are those that believe that they have ceased. So whether the topic is called “Expression of the Holy Spirit” or “Cessationalism” (i.e. the Gifts have ceased), I see this being something that has people with strong feelings on both sides of the spectrum.

    • John says:

      I agree. This is a very highly contested issue, but having been on both sides of the fence and after hours of independent research I have concluded that most of what I see attributed to the Holy Spirit is unscriptural. No offense intended to anyone, but it is a highly mispreached topic by both sides. Having said that, the Holy Spirit is a very real Person in my life and certainly active.

  8. PJ says:

    My list of 6 (for the Western church):

    1. Theology (perhaps related to #4)
    2. Personal Preference (consumerism?)
    3. Reliance on Human Organization and Systemization (perhaps related to #6)
    4. Human Knowledge (or perhaps the sense of power/control it offers)
    5. Wealth
    6. Love of the World (not the people, but the ways and pleasures of it)

  9. John Ireland says:

    I think you are right on target, Pete.

    The topic of women in ministry is one that is particularly close to my heart. Even before my wife began her job as a campus pastor at Asbury University, I held strongly to an egalitarian understanding of Jesus’ valuation of women. The limitations women encounter in work and marriage seem to me to be more a result of humans than Christ.

    Worth stirring the pot on all these issues…

  10. Jack Hager says:

    My only comment would be to put the first two in bold print. I’d say the first two stand so far about the other genuine issues that they should be designated in another way. I think universalism should be ranked higher (lower?) than homosexuality; and, coupled with the universalistic issue is the exclusivity of the gospel…Is Jesus and the gospel of repentance/faith the ONLY way to heaven? Or, bottom line, is Jesus Christ a liar (or the scriptures inaccurage) Can’t have it both ways (unless you subscribe to THomas Jefferson’s taking a knife and cutting out the verses you don’t like..)

  11. Pam Shaffer says:

    On a big scale- One way to heaven vs many ways. Just think about how many people have listened to Oprah Winfrey as she “preached” about many gods and paths to him/her.

    On a small scale- I still hear debates re:traditional vs contemporary and dress codes. How petty, when many are lost without Christ, we worry about these things.

  12. Church size! Some people feel that when a church gets too big they have done something wrong. They may feel that being true to the gospel means keeping a small church. That drives me nuts.

    • John says:

      There’s nothing wrong with a large Church, if they have Church. However, many in my area and some of what I see on TV have become nothing more than a rock concert followed by a pep talk. We can argue all day about the old versus contemporary, but we will all stand before God someday and give an account. Be prepared.

  13. Sherie says:

    The only other one that comes to my mind right now ties into both #2 and #5, it is singleness and their role in the church. Our society is now over 50% single, but the churches are not. I have encountered singles who feel excluded from the church, and I know many who have not been allowed to serve in ministry roles where they desire and are gifted only because of their marriage status. Should there be any differences between the never married and the divorced? I don’t know how big of an issue it is, however I believe it is bigger than people imagine.

  14. paulaswift says:

    The “wealth” of one church vs. another and all that goes with it – including the organization itself and all the members who are part of it.

  15. Carol C says:

    I was listening to a podcast by Jonathan Welton and he mentioned a conversation he had with a friend who said, “I don’t even agree with myself from 5 years ago. If I can’t agree with myself 100% of the time how will I ever agree with someone outside of myself?”

    He said the basis of walking together was love and covenent – a husband and wife will not always agree, but they still walk together.

    I just thought it was interesting…watch a group of teens from all over the country come together to serve on a mission trip and they’re not at all concerned about the differences in their churches – they’re there to let Jesus use them to the people they came to serve.

    • kathryn says:

      Wow Carol! That was really insightful. Your mention of a husband and wife disagreeing but still walking in covenant…that’s really changed my perspective on unity in the church. I’m inspired to be more loving. God really spoke to me through you just now.

  16. kathryn says:

    I find #3 to be particularly unique to American Christians, and churches in America. I live in Canada, and I just don’t GET the politics thing in America.

    In Canada, I’ve found, this need to “align” to a certain political party, or end of the political spectrum, isn’t nearly as divisive. Canadians seem more interested in making sure the government runs the country in a godly way. (There were lots of pagan kings who ruled Israel but did good things for her – Nehemiah anyone?)

    To be honest, politics seems to cause more disappointment than divisiveness! It’s kind of humourous: “Oh, you voted for them? Really? Oh.”

    The other 5 still, I think, apply up here in the cold tundra :)

  17. katdish says:

    I think all of these issues are extremely divisive for the church, but I think the underlying issue with all things we find ourselves divided on is that our stance on any issue (whatever that may be) is the absolute, undeniable truth and whatever those who disagree with us believe is an absolute, undeniable lie created to tear the Body of Christ apart. Not a whole lot of room for healthy debate and discussion there. I still like what Manning said:

    “Do you remember the famous line of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal? “God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment”? We often make God in our own image, and He winds up to be as fussy, rude, narrow minded, legalistic, judgemental, unforgiving, unloving as we are.”

  18. judy says:

    I would like to add the tyranny of man. Even traditional or conservative denominations find ways to speak beyond what the Bible speaks and become ” lords over the consciences of others”. When a pastor stands in for the Lord instead of being an example things get messed up.

    • John says:

      Amen. When you break free and start to study on your own, you’ll find a lot of things that you can’t find in the Bible!

  19. britt savage says:

    I don’t disagree with the fact that these 6 issues may cause division in a church but i have a hard time figuring out why they do.
    If the church is following Jesus’s teachings and example. I can’t imagine Jesus with a political bumper sticker nor do I think he’d be into any mud slinging on Christian blog sites. I believe the internet can reach someone who will never set foot into a church or who may have some physical limitations which prohibit them from leaving their home.
    As far as Evolution. I don’t take it as being anti biblical. Just as a parent answers a child’s tricky questions with age appropriate information. I believe a loving God wouldn’t upset early man by suggesting he was standing on ball, spinning through space and you might have evolved from a fish with feet. (is this where I get kicked off the praise team again?)
    and as for homosexuality. The difference between this and every other ‘sin’ seems to be choice. In my heart, I don’t believe most people are making a choice to only be attracted to their same sex. And even if it was a choice, I believe Jesus would have welcomed them into his flock.

    • Carrie says:

      Britt, may I humbly point out that I think we muddle the issue of homosexuality when we get into the debate is it their choice or not. Because at the end of the day, it’s still sin. Any sin that we continually throw ourselves into without repentance is destructive to our own lives. It’s a difficult issue, because it’s always hard to see a friend struggle over this in their lives…but just because a particular sin is hard to overcome, doesn’t mean it’s not meant to be overcome. And although I hesitate to speak for Jesus, I would venture to say He would welcome them into His flock, BUT like the adulterous woman, He would have told them “to go and sin no more”. The reality for me hit me when I asked myself, what if my emotions and care for someone stopped me from telling the truth and a person misses out on a relationship with Christ because of my opinion? It rocked me. I’d rather tell them the truth in love and see where it lands rather than give them my opinions about God’s Word than what God’s Word actually says. When someone’s eternity is concerned, that’s when my opinion has to go out the window and I rely on the Word of God and what it says. This is just my personal journey regarding this issue, I hope it can help in some way.

      • Cyndi says:

        Really well put. I sometimes feel my care for people and so wanting them to follow Christ causes me to speak less truth to them which is both horrible and deadly.

      • John says:

        You are right on the money. If you do not tell the truth, regardless of the consequences, that is not love and you will be held accountable. If you were about to drink a can of Drano, I would tell you not to, even though you might think its none of my business. You are on the right track.

    • John says:

      Evolution isn’t even a good theory. If you study the Bible long enough you will find there is a great deal of science in it, including the fact that the earth is suspended in space with no obvious support. And you are absolutely correct. Jesus would not have shunned the individual, but would have stated the truth without regard to their feelings. This is where I often fall way short.

      • Jeb says:

        Just to be clear, how is the theory of evolution flawed? Do you not agree that variations in inherited traits exist in a population, and that those individuals best suited to their environment have a reproductive advantage?

        As for homosexuality, this is only divisive because we are lazy and like to cherry-pick the sins that we don’t struggle with.

        • John says:

          Jeb, sorry to be so slow to respond. My intention is not to change anyone’s mind, only God can change a person’s mind. My passion is to find the truth. I started “researching the research” so to speak, as a result of some health issues several years ago. What I found was that science has become quite corrupt over the years, whether medical, agricultural, biological, whatever. Being a Christian, I’m often challenged about evolution. Rather than try to debate point by point, I would suggest that you try what I have been doing. Set aside any preconceived notions or hoped for results and research the research. What I have found is a very surprising lack of facts and some pretty amazing assumptions. You can read almost any science article and find there is little substance, but plenty of unsubstantiated claims. I would recommend beginning with a thorough examination of carbon dating, followed by a study of the so-called fossil record. I think you’ll be surprised. Please let me know how you get along. And thanks for commenting.

  20. Lori Lujan says:

    wow Pete, from randomness to jumping right in there. anyone interested in some great books about#1 check out The End of Sexual Identity by Janelle Williams Paris and Love is N Orientation by Andrew Marin.

  21. Jason says:

    Honestly, Pete, the six on your list hit the ones that popped into my head. I just wonder if American Christianity has gone so far into the selfish realm that it’s too late to obtain unity in a larger sense. We have generations of people who were influenced by a society of “everyone get along” and being told you need to make everyone like you and standing for Christ’s truth will by nature make you unpopular with some.

  22. Joe Bell says:

    The biggest issue facing the church is Matthew 6:33. The whole problem is that we haven’t just sought to follow Christ and build the Kingdom. Instead, we tell others what is right, and seek to build our interests- our view of sin & salvation, our views on scripture, sexuality & politics, our view on women, and our desires and interests- even our opinions online! Meanwhile, the world is watching us attack windmills and wondering why we don’t know better with God than they do without God.

  23. Provocative post, Pete. Another issue that comes to mind is Israel. Will we stand with them or not? This definitely can come under the umbrella of “Politics,” but doesn’t stay there. God is for Israel. As Christians I believe He asks us to be for them, too but not all churches agree or care.

  24. Hate to say it, but I’ve heard of churches divide over reading the Bible on a phone/ipad during services. Not common, I hope!

  25. Michelle says:

    The view that the corporate expression of church as we know it, meeting in a building on Sundays, is wrong/ineffective/irrelevant to being the ‘true church’.

    • John says:

      4And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

      25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

  26. Michelle says:

    The view that the corparate expression of church as we commonly know it, in a building on Sunday, is wrong/irrelevant/ineffective, while elevating community service and/ or house meetings as ‘true expressions’ of church.

  27. Kimanzi says:

    I know in our Church a big issue is music. That issue being traditional gospel (hymns) or CCM. I’m divided my self because there are some CCM songs I like but I wonder if CCM is sounding to much like the “worlds” music. The bible does say that “friendship with the world is emnity with God”. It also talks about Christians being set apart from the world, Is CCM sounding and looking to much like regular rock? I still am praying for what the Lord would want for me in this iusse!

  28. Jody says:

    A 7th big elephant in the room is the Muslim faith itself. No matter what your opinion is about current conflicts, the fact is that we are at war with a Muslim “enemy” who attacked us almost 10 years ago. So, does the modern church “love” them as our enemies as Jesus said? Do we try to save their “lost” souls? Do we protect ourselves from them by putting on blinders and just stay on the offensive by being prepared for 9/11 Part 2?

  29. Greg M says:

    Wow and here I thought the biggies were
    1. Guitars or organ
    2. Logo Tshirts or robes to preach in
    3. Movies or not
    4. dresses or shorts
    5. Welches, Newman’s own or real wine

  30. jason says:

    What did our Lord say was number one?

    Love God.

    Why can we not pray, and show, and teach how and why we love the Lord God. (which is our faith)(teaching how He first loved us and always has)

    Is that not the reason we got into the ministry anyway, because we love Him and wanted others to know Him.

    If we could only communicate who God is through Christ and with His help to cultivate others to discover God, to fall in love with God.

    I believe that to be true biblical community. All the other stuff would just fall into place.

    God help us.

  31. Chad says:

    Alcohol… Especially in the southern USA. That would be very high on the list whereas homosexuality wouldn’t be there at all.

    Calvinism is another biggie…

  32. Rafa says:

    A top 10 is racism… That still divides the big C Church. It is so powerful that many Churches would not even acknowledge it is an issue, but the reality speaks by itself.

  33. suzy says:

    Pete, … and the irony in all this ever-so-accurate list of divisive issues, is that the secular world is completely uninvolved in “our” discussion. I have experienced all of these divisive arenas, and i can extend Number 6. As I am relatively new to the conversation myself, from a professional angle, every day I find myself having to pull out of the digital rabbit holes that are inviting, and frankly a bit sinister in their meaningless debates. I pull out and go into the actual-bigger world and am reminded that THIS is where we are meant to be salt and light. The time spent in the Christian world of self-exposure (social conversations) is time NOT spent in the world that needs to feel the heart of God on the street. It’s an unfortunate use of our knowledge and faith.

Leave a Reply