Different assignments

God can use church separations for good

Jul 18, 2016 by

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In the offices of Mennonite Church USA in Elkhart, Ind., there is an artwork of pieces of pottery arranged on a flat surface. On its own, not one of these pieces is extraordinarily remarkable, but standing together, their various shapes and colors are beautiful.

The display is a picture of the church’s beauty in its diversity. This is a picture we love, and for good reason — it shows the restoration we’re waiting for that we will experience when Jesus returns to make all things right.

Just as we would be bothered by breaking up the pottery pieces, we naturally are concerned, saddened and even hurt whenever some of us decide to separate in order to go (or maintain) a certain way.

In the Book of Acts, God uses the missionary partnership of Paul and Barnabas to bring the gospel to many people. The two coworkers experience persecution, perform miracles and travel together for a time until they have a disagreement “so sharp that they parted company” (Acts 15:39).

Barnabas wanted to take John called Mark with them on their journey to visit the churches. But Paul said no because John Mark had left them on a previous journey. Paul and Barnabas go separate ways. Barnabas takes John Mark, and Paul takes Silas. With whom are we meant to side? The narrative continues to follow Paul, yet John Mark is the one who (it is believed) becomes the author of the Gospel of Mark.

A note in the ESV Study Bible says, “In the sovereignty of God, out of this disagreement came a doubling of their labor, for Barnabas went to strengthen the churches in Cyprus and Paul went to the churches in Syria, Cilicia and then Galatia. In addition, both of their assistants (Silas and Mark) went on to have significant ministries themselves.”

The recent formation of the Evana Network is seen by some as a departure from MC USA. That is partially true, but to the extent that it is so, it is an action God can use to bring the gospel to more people.

It is wrong to resent a group of people for doing what they believe God is calling them to do. The kingdom of God is bigger than any church organization, and the Holy Spirit is more than capable of working through the strengths and weaknesses each group has. One day, unity will be restored.

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