When a congregation my husband and I were attending had a major event that caused a split I was out of town and got the news that led to the split in a very ugly way; the event in question was merely listed as one of the things to pray for in an e-mail prayer request. It was a major shock, it was unbelievable, it was NOT a way one wants to find out their church family is headed for disaster! My first reaction was disbelief, my second was to call someone to find out what happened, my third was to pray. A little backwards I'd say...perhaps prayer should have been first. It would have calmed my soul a little, it would have helped me center and think more clearly, and it would have prepared me much better for events that followed!
Psalm 107:28-30 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven
There are as many reasons congregations split as there are sins in the world, and, for this writing it
I Peter 4:8-11 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."
I said feelings first, because we are human beings that feel a certain way no matter what the event or the words or the wisp of wind in the air causes within us...we are going to FEEL a certain way after events occur that lead to a church split. It's OK to have feelings about it...it's OK to feel hurt or angry or afraid or unsure, it's NATURAL to have whatever feelings that come!! Let that happen, let yourself feel what you feel, because that is the very beginning of truth; the best place to start! And then you PRAY, you pray hard! PRAY before you react, pray during your reactions, pray after you hear things, pray when you feel ANYTHING you feel...let GOD be your guide in everything!
After I prayed (which should have been FIRST) sigh..., anyway, after I prayed I immediately went to (called) an elder to ask questions. I couldn't wait the 9 days before I returned home to find out what had happened that was most surely going to be the death of the church family (as it was) I had known and loved. He told me some things, but not all, and so I felt tortured for all of those days to wait until I returned home to try to understand what happened and why things were done the way they were. A VERY long 9 days I'll tell you!!
A very important thing to keep in mind when events occur that cause your congregation to divide itself is NOT TO BE PART OF THE PROBLEM!! Taking sides is a natural inclination, and it is RIGHT...WHEN the side is GOD. There is always THE right way, and that is the way of truth and our Lord...He gave us the rights and wrongs for our guidance, and in THAT we can feel confident. Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
One thing that is critical IF healing of anyone is to occur is that there be transparency within the leadership of the congregation. COMPLETE AND UTTER TRANSPARENCY!!!
Liken it to a teacher. A teacher is given the task of teaching each student that they are in charge of, THE WAY THE STUDENT LEARNS! I was a teacher, and I know the task is not always easy, but those parents expect their child to learn, that school district expects that I will help each child learn, and EACH CHILD deserves a chance to learn and grow...In just the same manner, our leaders within each congregation are responsible for each and every soul within that congregation, and IF a decision they make (which is sometimes the case) results in a church division, then they have a very heavy responsibility! IF these two things don't occur, it will not be a healing situation for all involved.
SO, what to do when your church splits? FIRST and foremost, PRAY. Pray for the situation, for the individuals at the crux of the matter, for the reactions of everyone, for the leadership; that they handle it GOD'S WAY, for every aspect of the situation. Let God be in the center of any decision you will make.
CONSIDERATIONS: The main consideration when you are deciding the right thing to DO in the aftermath of an event is to stand for truth! IF your leadership is handling things in a Godly way, work with them to be part of the solution to healing. Let them do what they need to do to heal and help the members move past the event. Help in any way you can!
IF you find yourself in a situation where you feel your leadership is not handling things in a Godly way, or have actually been a part of the problem, you then have a decision to make. YOUR SOUL is under their guidance. YOU HAVE TO TRUST YOUR ELDERSHIP with your soul. If you cannot do that, then you may have to make the hard decision to find another congregation with an eldership you can prayerfully and with trust, put yourself under.
A second consideration is how to love the other members of your once whole family congregation. Think of an earthly family. When a family splits up you don't stop loving your other family members. Some may not be walking the way they should, but you still love them! LOVE THEM!! Continue to pray for them, with them...Make wise decisions to NOT be a hindrance to healing on either "side" of the split! Recognize that every soul in the damaged congregation has a Godly right to decide for themselves what they need to do. Respect their decisions. We are all still free moral agents. God set that in motion, and who are we to try to force anything on anyone! IF we see blatant sin existing in a church family we are still bound by scripture and given clear instruction as to how to handle it...FOLLOW the scripture on any given situation.