Church splits—are they ever good?

Sometimes when a perennial grows for a long time in one place, it outgrows its space and quits thriving. It blooms less and the foliage becomes scraggly. The gardener should then dig up and divide the plant, transplanting part to a new spot so that each new smaller plant can once again grow and multiply.

That works in the plant world. Can it work for churches, too? Just a thought I’ve been musing about recently. Is a church like a plant, or does dividing it destroy it? Can a church split ever be healthy? I know that it is never an enjoyable experience—everyone I know who has experienced a split tells me that. But I’m sure the plant is somewhat traumatized by division and transplanting, too. That doesn’t mean that it’s not good for the plant in the long run. Could the same be true for a church?

Is this analogy totally off the wall? Is there no way to compare the two? I’m not sure. I would really love to have some responses to this!

What do you think?


About dayuntoday

I'm a wonderer. I spend a lot of time mulling, pondering, and cogitating. This is just a place to park some of those thoughts.
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20 Responses to

  1. fwren says:

    Interesting analogy ~ need to ponder on it a bit ~

  2. snowangl84 says:

    Over the course of the last several years, I’ve been pondering what church really should look like. I am completely frustrated and fed up with the church ‘ set up’ as it is right now. However, I think the last thing needed is to create yet *another* church, when there are so so many.
    Then I wonder..can mega churches be a good thing? Of course its great to reach out to lots of people. However, big fancy churches with thousands of members, with the finest of amenities…that doesnt seem to fit.
    The exponential growth model is the one Jesus taught..and I dont think the American church is demonstrating that at all. That model depends on investing in individual people on a personal basis, one at a time, and then sending that person out to invest in someone else- and so on.
    So how does that work? Maybe home churches? And maybe the churches should stay small..and split when they reach a certain place? To then start their own investing in small groups of people. Nevertheless- I think there are the beginnings of a major shift in the church as we know it. Historically, approximately every 500 years there has been a major change. Who knows were this shift will take us.
    Just some random thoughts.

  3. homefire says:

    Snow ang, I think you’ve hit on the very thing.  Home churches.  Then splits will naturally happen when they outgrow their space and they won’t overgrow into these huge monsters that require so much artificial support that their focus becomes sustaining themselves rather than reaching out.  (I’m not a megachurch fan, either.  )  Good thought!

  4. Anonymous says:

    When you divide perennials, sometimes you have more than 2 sections. The splitting into new “groups” to reach out, wouldn’t be over doctrinal issues, but because they would be UNITED on their goal and purpose.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I tend to agree with snowangl84’s thoughts.  If a church can unanimously agree to split in order to bring more people into God’s Kingdom, that’s a good thing.  However, the splits you usually hear about are due to disagreements/personality issues, and those are very harmful.  Those have the potential to completely turn some people off from church for good.

  6. fwren says:

    Okay, I’ve pondered a bit  ~ ~ ~ As a perennial needs new space and soil to grow and “spread” its beauty, maybe a church group does too if “overcrowding” is causing smaller “blooms” and stunting growth?  Sometimes, a plant becomes very weak or just dies out because there is no more room for the roots to dig down or spread out ~ they are inhibited by the very container they are in or they are bordered too tightly.  Its beauty is only a fraction of what it once was or what it could be.  Hmmmm . . .

  7. homefire says:

    So, waiting… Could those smaller blooms and stunted growth that fwren talked about typify the personality issues/disagreements that you mentioned?  I agree with you and Looking that those are not good reasons to divide.  However, if the GOOD reasons have been ignored, and the overgrowth and stultification continue, is that when the ugly things begin to appear?  Obviously, the divide will be more painful at that point, but is it still necessary?  Will the ugliness ever go away if the division is not made? 
    I just keep thinking about this.  IS there another solution?

  8. Usually church splits occur when people are not thinking of unity. But, once the “dead wood” is pruned out voluntarily, the whole plant can be healthier. “Let no root of bitterness remain…”

  9. Hi, thanks for the comment. The tall yellow flower is called Verbascum (or Mullein) and mine are abrout 4 1/2 ft tall. They’re very pretty flowers, I have a few other colors.
    I agree completely with the home church idea. It’s really seems to follow the Biblical form of discipleship. You teach 5 then they go out and teach 5 who goes out and teaches 5 etc. =) God Bless and thanks again for the comment.

  10. CHOBLIT says:

    I’m pondering a bit…sometimes what I think in my head doesn’t come out right in words…so I need to clean today and while I do, I’ll think and get back to you, OK?

  11. CHOBLIT says:

    Or another option is to let Bruce reply…I vote for that one…we’ll see!!

  12. I don’t recall the church ever being compared to a perennial in the Bible. We were compared to a body, which I, from experience, can tell you does not work well when split into pieces… We are a building of God, which works best in one piece. We are branches of a Vine Who is undivided.
    I don’t claim to understand all Biblical analogy, but a cursory glance at scripture tends to encourage humble acceptance of the fact that another’s opinion is better than mine, so this is just a thought.

  13. homefire says:

    Good point, que.  Like I said, I’m just groping blindly here with a random thought, so I welcome all answers!

  14. homefire says:

    Of course, His body is already extremely divided at this point, if all the different denominations are actual divisions…  Ah, well, all analogies break down at some point.  Maybe this one just breaks down rather quickly. 
    Carla, I’d love to hear Bruce’s response, too!

  15. homefire says:

    Teach, I thought about that dead wood bit, and I wonder if we can really classify anyone as dead wood.  😦  That hurts!
    I really think that, like Esther said, splits would ideally occur before there are any roots of bitterness, and then they are just opportunities for more growth.   That’s TRUE outreach!  The fact that splits are generally ugly affairs shows the flawed nature of the church today.
    Even so, come Lord Jesus!

  16. CHOBLIT says:

    Good word picture, however,I do not believe psychological analysis plays a part in the real picture. When there is false doctrine that is publicly proclaimed by elders and appointed ministers in the church, the Bible gives clear instruction on what to do. This can be done through a collective effort, or , as is sometimes necessary, individually. But Paul made it very clear that “though I or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than what I have declared to you let him be accursed.” He said, “After My departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you not sparing the flock, also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things willing to draw disciples away after them.” The gospel that Paul preached and declared was that of the LORD. It was of HIS completed work on Calvary , raised again , seated @ the right hand of the Father, sending the Holy Spirit to be received by FAITH. This FAITH must be PERSONALLY expressed in Christ. Each Person receives the Blessed Holy Spirit to guide and direct, this is Christ in you, the hope of Glory. Personal Faith in a Personal Saviour for a Personal Salvation & Personal Testimony, is the foundation of the new covenant. It is the Grace / Faith message that has always been assaulted by those who walk by the flesh, by those who walk in fear. The Grace/ Faith message was indeed the “stumbling block”, it has always been offensive. But the Grace/ Faith system is in effect by GOD !When leaders proclaim differently, it leaves the true believer no choice. He will guide you in the “when” and “how”, But there is not an IF ! The SPLIT has already happened by those choosing to depart from the AGE OLD MESSAGE OF JESUS HIMSELF. So Jesus said , ” I did not come to bring peace, But a sword ! ” He knew the message of the cross would offend the followers of the flesh. Life in Adam speaks only of death and dying. But, Life in CHRIST is By FAITH alone WITHOUT WORKS! Herein lies the division. This crystal clear message cannot be added to by synods & councils, as some have come to believe. Paul did not take it lightly when men who are supposed to be spiritual shepherds, pervert the gospel which cost the blood of Jesus. The only true lasting peace is found in the truth of the passage which states ” for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a NEW CREATURE…and as many as walk by THIS RULE, PEACE be on them, and Mercy, and on the Israel of God !” [Gal. 6: 15&16] May God bless you as you continue to walk by Faith , and not by sight. We too will lift you up in prayer, before our Father. In Christ, Bruce

  17. homefire says:

    Lots of good thoughts, Bruce.  Thanks!

  18. cereneone says:

    As with so many occurrences in the Word, nature can be our teacher. I do think that you are on the right path. If the church does not split, then it will lose many believers by them stop attending and getting hurt, living in anger and so forth. So if the division is such that it literally splits a church in two….well they should not be part of the whole still. There is a purpose to everything under heaven.

  19. livinonfaith says:

     I like to take the idealistic outlook on things. I am minded more like let’s have no denomination, it’s causing problems. Jesus will convict your heart of good, bad, right, wrong, black, white. There IS no gray area. It is time to seek the heart of our Savior… and move out regardless of what you are or are not a part of. Deal with the walls as they come and venture past the line of mediocrity… So many are on the cutting edge of radically following Jesus, so many are there already. But as long as we are bound in any chains, Satan is tying us down and we cannot run.  Lift those padlocks to El Shaddai.

  20. joy4jesus424 says:

    i’ve been out of touch for a while, but heard about this post 🙂
    que is right- the TRUE church of Christ is His body and cannot be divided, but i don’t really think that is what the discussion is about. i believe the point is closer to what Bruce is saying. i MUST seperate myself from those who are declaring a doctrine other than Christ or adding to what God requires of us. i am personally starting to think membership in a denomination is not what Christ had in mind in the NT church…i don’t think denominations are supported scripturally. i believe we need to be accountable to fellow believers and we need to care for, pray for and encourage those who have accepted Christ. i also agree with Bruce that a seperation from false doctrine can be done collectively or individually…it MUST be done one way or the other. let’s get our heads out of the sand and face reality!
    livingonfaith- denominations will always have problems because they tend to want to add to or take away from the doctrine of Christ by creating some sort of guidelines, rules, etc. Why can’t the Bible, Christ and conviction by the Holy Spirit be enough?
    definitely all food for thought, homefire  

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