What is a Faction?

I was once a member of a congregation that I now believe could easily be labeled as a “faction” (even if  it became one by accident). In fact, I was a deacon, evangelist, Bible class teacher and a missionary for that congregation. Unfortunately it took me years and going through some extremely heartbreaking situations to realize what the congregation was. However, hindsight being 20-20, it seems so clear now what I should have seen before. Sadly most of my former “church family” are still on that journey and are in the same boat we were in for years; not being able to see the forest for the trees. Admittedly I still wonder if I see it all. I still wake up in the middle of the night remembering situations from ten years ago that in the moment I was convinced I was on the right side of. I have shared and cried with some of my closest friends and can tell they are unable to empathize with the pain we have experienced; only sympathize. The shock and disbelief, while completely understandable, is the same shock and disbelief my wife and I had just a few years before when people began sharing these similar pains with us. And while I am not interested in dragging a congregation thru the muck, I am whole-heartedly interested in dragging the church out of the muck so many are currently in. I was taught a long time ago that slow and steady will get you thru the mud. But if you don’t see the mud, or are in it before you know it, then you are going to have problems. Sometimes it’s correctable and sometimes you will have to get help. But staying in the middle of the muck, stuck in the mud, lying to yourself and others about being stuck just doesn’t make sense.

Now, this congregation I mentioned had all the “right” vernacular. Using acceptable terms to describe things and standing firm for the “traditional conservative” models. Contending for the faith with terms like “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” and “you don’t go to church, you are the church,” we from the outside had all the appearances of a strong conservative congregation of the Lord’s church. We had the right name on the sign, the right type of music, the right type of preaching, the right type of activities, and so forth.

Sadly, over the years, all the things that our fathers taught us had become a checklist of things we had to do. We meet at the “scriptural time”, we meet at a “scriptural building”, and we slowly replaced the word “tradition” with the word “scriptural”. We morphed into a model of “looking right” and in the process became yet another faction.

So what is a Faction?  Well, simply put; “its a group within a larger group that has different ideas and opinions than the rest of the group”.  We understand this when it comes to political factions, but what weight does this carry for the church?  A good place to always start when trying to figure out what something means from the scriptures is to look at the scriptures.

Galatians 5:18-21

18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

17 But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.

2 Peter 2:1-3

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies (same greek word for factions), even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

So we see that factions are a division from the whole, but they can be used to recognize “those who are approved.” We can see that factions bring in false teaching and many are led away because of it. And most weighty and sobering, we see that those who continue in a faction will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The Bible calls for unity (1 Cor 1:10, Eph 4, and so many others).  Unity to the head which is Christ. Unity to each other. The Bible also calls for devotion. Devotion to His word and His ways.

So how do you know if you are in a faction or not?  This is a great question. As was said earlier, we couldn’t see the forest for the trees when we were “in the faction”. But we could sense that something wasn’t right. We could see hypocrisies and inconsistencies and couldn’t find the balance.  Recognizing a faction, especially if you are in one, can be an emotional journey.  However, I assume that if you are still reading this article that you are curious and want above all to be in the body of Christ and nothing but the body of Christ. So here are some questions and thoughts, to help you start “seeing the forest”…

  1. Are you a member of the one church (Ephesians 4) or a man made institution?
  2. When you describe where you worship is it at a location, or in your heart?
  3. When someone asks you where you are a member, do you name Christ or a building?
  4. Are you a faithful christian because you “attend every Sunday”, or because you try to live and give as Christ would?
  5. Do you search the Bible, and obey the Bible, even if it’s not what you want to do?

Maybe another way of looking at it would be “You might be in a faction if…”:

  1. If your teachers spend more time talking about what someone thinks the Bible says, rather than reading and studying the Bible with you…
  2. If there are closed, secret, exclusive business/budget meetings…
  3. If  your congregation sends money to other organizations (even other congregations), rather than directly to brethren…
  4. If “fellowship” is reduced to a certain meal time…
  5. If your congregation spends more time on “Evangelistic Programs”, rather than person to person conversations and Bible study…
  6. If your congregation’s “Evangelistic Programs” devote more time and planning on food, decorations, skits, etc, rather than serving true needs or reading God’s word…
  7. If you care more about playground equipment or the building’s needs, than the quality of the Bible class…
  8. If you hear people using the reasoning “because we have always done it this way” and they can’t tell you why…
  9. If your congregation is more focused on paying off the building than helping the needy saints…
  10. If your congregation only gives the minimum when helping a missionary in need…
  11. If you don’t know anything about the missionaries your congregation supports…
  12. If you question your leaders/teachers/older members,etc, and they try to “put you in your place”, rather than help you toward a Biblical answer…
  13. When outsiders say “Y’all are the same as the ______ denomination except for ______ “…
  14. If your preacher, or anybody, is spiritually worn out from doing “all the work,”…
  15. If your preacher, or anybody, is expected to be at the building and work a certain number of hours each week in order to be paid…
  16. If your elders/shepherds don’t know your family very well…. (Have you been in their home? Have they recently asked how your family was doing spiritually?” Do they even know name, kids names, etc?)
  17. If your preacher, elders, deacons, or members are considered part-time…
  18. If your preacher, or anybody, is expected to “live more christian” than you…
  19. If your preacher is expected to tend to the flock so the elders can “see about physical things”…
  20. If your elders spend more time tending to “stuff” than visiting/hosting/knowing/tending to souls…

 

There are so many things that can make us a faction today.  But the most important way to keep from it is:  Know what the Bible says…  Have scriptural authority for what you are doing… And do it.

 

(This article is still a work in progress. Rev. 2/16/2017)

 

 

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