When we were in the darker periods of my ministry in Toronto, Canada, one of the most common manifestations of our corporate dysfunction was the “group divisions” we experienced. For instance, the seniors often appeared hostile towards the youth, complaining about their music and how the church Board seemed to let the youth program “get by” with a lot of inappropriate behavior. The youth returned the favor and complained that the seniors were always “down on them”. They passed glares back and forth.
The dysfunction went deeper. As a staff, we often felt that the Board resisted us and our ideas. We would sit in our staff meetings and talk about “us” (the staff) and our problems with “them” (the Board). Then I would go to Board meetings we often talked about how it was “us against the congregation” as the congregation seemed to resist all leadership initiatives atv our business meetings. We spent a lot of time strategizing, not how to reach our community, but how to “get something by” a congregational vote!
Working now with many churches in pain, I have deepened my understanding of how perfect the metaphor of “Body” is for the local church. I am convinced that many medical maladies get mirrored in the behaviors and attitudes of people within the Body of Christ. One of the most intriguing of these is the category called the “auto-immune diseases.”
Wikipedia defines “auto-immune diseases” this way: Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the body actually attacks its own cells. The immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks it. I know about auto-immunes intimately as I have Type II diabetes and my wife has Graves’ disease.
Stated another way, an auto-immune disease is when the body starts attacking itself, starts treating its own healthy body parts (such as joints in rheumatoid arthritis, the skin in eczema and psoriasis, the colon in Crohns) as if they were “diseased” and sends an “immune response” (the body’s way of dealing with dangers) to eliminate them. In other words, the body assumes an “us-them” mentality and it expends its energy to deal with “them”, but actually ends up making itself much sicker.
This is the exact opposite of what the Apostle Paul said we should experience as the Body of Christ at a local church level: But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15-16)
Therefore, if your church struggles with an “us-them” mentality between various groups and expends its energies trying to work around whoever is perceived as “them”, you need to take seriously finding out from the Lord of your church what the issues are. You need to discover where these attitudes came from and when they started, then as leaders you should take responsibility for these attitudes and repent for the way your church has worked against Christ’s plan for a healthy church body that Paul describes.
When we held a repentance service in our Toronto church, this was one of the major things we saw Christ do for us. He restored unity, respect and love between the very different “body parts” which had been so divided in our church. The impact on the whole amazed us. May you see the same in your church.
Dr. Ken Quick serves as Director of Consulting for Blessing Point Ministries and is the author of Healing the Heart of Your Church (ChurchSmart 2003) and Body Aches (ChurchSmart 2009). Ken also serves as Chair of the Practical Theology Department at Capital Bible Seminary.