My pastor friend Greg Surratt from Seacoast Church in South Carolina recently told me a troubling but hilarious story about his grandfather who was the pastor of a small church in a farming community in rural Oklahoma many years ago. Apparently, half the church got upset with him and decided to split off from the church. The problem is, they did not leave the church.
That’s right, it was the church split that would not split. Instead of leaving and starting their own church down the street, they decided to stay after realizing they had helped pay for half the building, and neither side wanted to give the other “their investment.” The church was built with the traditional center aisle and a set of pews on either side and every Sunday the group that was mad at the pastor would sit on one side and the group that liked him would sit on the other.
When it came time for sharing testimonies, each side would try to shout louder and tell better stories than the other. If one side spoke in tongues, the other side would try to speak better and longer. Neither side would leave the church for the sake of some peace and quiet. Finally, Greg’s grandfather left and let them have the building.
This is a true story and reminds me of Paul’s letter to a similarly immature church in Corinth.
“In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”
I Corinthians 11:18-19 NIV