How to Recover from the Heartbreak of a Church Split

2.  There are always other choices to be made.

It is easy to make a gracious transition out of a church. That may sound simplistic, but I believe it.

It is possible to make a gracious transition out of a difficult situation. Take the high road. Remember Jesus, “He spoke not a word.” Leave it in God’s hands. There may be some things that are not right in the leadership. There may be some real problems in the church. The best answer is not to divide the church. At the end of the day, it’s God who builds the house. It’s actually NOT our job to “fix” everything. God has a way of dealing with people, leaders, and cleaning things up. Let God do what only He can do.

It is so important for Christians, to the best of our ability, to leave a place better when we depart than it was when we got there. 

Sometimes, people leave their church the way adolescents breakup with their boyfriends and girlfriends – saying unnecessarily hurtful things, trying to demean them and scar their reputation, with a parting shot of revenge.

There are many reasons for disagreements that escalate to a split, including immorality, financial problems, spiritual direction, disagreements on vision, the desire in a person to lead when it’s not really their job, or disappointments, among others.

There is a point when people should walk away graciously. If the lead pastor is actually in sin and is resisting handling the problems ethically and scripturally – God will deal with them. God will use other pastors or leaders or even life circumstances to correct the situation.

The spirit in which you leave one place will follow you when you enter the next.

The best solution is not to gather as many people as you can to leave the church. This will only multiply the hurts and damage.

Pray long and pray hard.

3.  Avoid involvement in anything that even looks like a church split -at all costs.

My challenge to everyone is – never be involved in a church split. Most of them could be avoided. Don’t get attracted to the drama and allow it to pull you in.

If things get emotional and divisive, it’s better to walk away graciously than to get involved.

If it’s disagreement about church functions and efforts, support the pastor and leadership.

If it’s a division between the leaders, walk carefully.

When churches go down the road and start “their own church,” don’t go with them. No matter how “correct” a group is, personally, I would never join or support a church split.

Loyalty to a friend is misplaced if you support them in their efforts to bring division.

Get wise advice from other experienced pastors who are not involved with the situation.

I know a pastor who had some people moving from his church in one city to go to another city and “help a pastor with a church plant.”  After a little investigation and a couple of phone calls, he found out it was not a church plant – it was a church split.  The pastor was leaving the church he pastored and was literally moving down the street and starting “a new church” with people from the main church. Calling it a church plant was not just dishonest; it was deceptive.

King Solomon is known for his wisdom when two mothers came to him for help. They both had babies, and one woman’s baby had died, and they were both claiming that the living baby was theirs. King Solomon said he was going to cut the living baby in half and give half of the baby to each of the mothers. That seems so weird.

One woman said, “Ok, cut it in half; I want my half.” (That’s creepy!) The other woman said, “No, don’t kill it – give it to the other woman.” Solomon said the woman who wanted the baby to live was the real mother. The one who was willing to kill it for her own satisfaction could not be the real mother.

People who are in a church and are willing to risk killing it so they can be right – or pastors who want to take their half and go across town – do not have the heart of God in the matter.

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Philip Wagner
Philip Wagner is Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles and founder of Generositywater.org. Oasis is an innovative and racially diverse church, largely comprised of people in their 20’s & 30’s. Oasis is known for its local and global outreach to the impoverished; especially orphans and widows, and funding clean water projects. Philip and his wife, Holly, started Oasis in 1984, in Beverly Hills with10 people. Today they’ve grown to 3000+ members.