In a previous post, I wrote about how the church is structured organizationally. In this post, I want to deal with church politics as found in power struggles and personal agendas.
When you think about church politics you might get the mental picture of people having a quiet conversation in the corner while looking over their shoulder. Others might think about a closed door, invitation only, committee meeting. Some may even picture a group of people gathering at someone’s home to talk about “the problem” at church.Hearing the phrase “church politics” causes most to cringe.
If you feel like the church you attend is political you are in good company. Most of the letters in the New Testament were written to churches who were struggling over power and personal agendas. Each book deals with one or more problems they faced in their specific ministry setting.
Every church will face some level of politics. This is because the church is full of people who come from different backgrounds, have different preferences, and who are struggling with different sins. The church is filled with imperfect people who are, hopefully, all trying to follow Jesus. There will be times when those people disagree and resort to politics to try and ‘get their way.’
Even the disciples had political arguments among themselves over who was the best!
An argument started among them about who was the greatest of them.
Luke 9:46 (CSB)
Even though this is something that is likely to happen we shouldn’t just be ‘ok’ with it when it does. Just because it might happen doesn’t mean that we should settle for less than what Christ wants for His church. When Jesus prays for the future church in John 17:21, He asks that we would be unified. More important than someone ‘getting their way’ is the unity of the church.
What are we to do then? How can we avoid church politics?
- You cant. At least not completely. Just know that this will be an issue from time to time, but don’t be ‘ok’ with it.
- Take a break. I know that it doesn’t sound productive but we often make too much out of things that are not central to the gospel. It can be helpful for us to step back and rethink our approach to the issue.
- Make the Bible the most important thing. Too often church politics arise because a particular preference is seen as right or wrong. We must look to the scriptures. Is the issue something that is central to the gospel? Another way people have asked this is, “Is this a primary or secondary issue?” If the issue is not primary to the Bible, let’s not make it a primary issue in the church. There are so many churches that have split over the color of carpet it’s laughable. Carpet is not a primary issue, it’s not even a secondary issue! Yet some have made it so important to the church it has caused problems.
There are definitely issues that we need to make a big deal about, and we should. However, there are a lot of issues that are made a big deal that are not. We should avoid those.
- Show grace. It is easy to get so caught up in church politics that we forget that person we disagree with is not the enemy. That person is a brother or sister in Christ who is made in the image of God. God loves them and has a plan for their life. He has placed those people in your life for a reason. Our goal should not be to win, but to show grace. We need to make sure that we do not steam-roll someone along the path while trying to get our position across. Grace should play an important part of our response.