The Disagreement

"And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord." Acts 15:40

At least two times in the early days of the church there would be sharp disagreements. One was over a point of doctrine, and the other was over personnel.

For most churches, settling the first is a cakewalk compared to coming to an agreement on the second. The calling and removal of pastors, staff and committee members usually involve some kind of a vote. Every time a church votes it runs the risk of a dividing the house and splitting the sheets.

Personnel issues involve personalities. Everyone has at least one. Some are two faced enough, or psychotic enough to have more than one. One per person is more than enough to ignite disagreements between most people.

The healthy church is not immune to the expression of differences of opinion, nor is a healthy marriage. The lack of use, or the abuse of the process of settling differences is where the disagreements become a chronic disease.

When the point of doctrine was brought to the floor, everyone had their say, but not everyone made the decision. James made the judgment call, not the biggest mouth, the hottest head, or the oldest member in the room. Interesting. No one called him a dictator, just pastor. But I digress.

When Paul and Barnabas couldn't agree on Mark's credentials for ministry, they went their separate ways. The Scripture says it was, "a sharp disagreement." Sharp disagreements are not painless. They cut. They leave a mark. They either fester into gangrene and cause the loss of a limb or they heal, and the body survives to live and serve. Paul and Barnabas chose the latter path. They moved on. Time would tell who was right. It usually does.

I can remember completing a staff reorganization process, and saying to my Staff Development Team Leader, "I am so glad to have our personnel issues settled." This great Christian layman let out a loud horselaugh. He said, "They are never behind you. They are always out in front of you." He was a lawyer, and had a staff of 500 people on his team. I was wrong. He was right. He spoke from experience. I was just hoping for the best.

Leading people means dealing with difficult people. Some disagreements are ancient. I remember dealing with a secretary who came into the office screaming one afternoon about how her daughter had been robbed. I didn't know she was talking about a cheerleader election. She was ranting about how it had happened to her, and now the same families were rigging the show, and doing it to her kid. She was full on postal. think I told her to get her purse and take her show on the road.

There has never been a personnel issue that didn't include dealing with someone who was either insubordinate, ineffective, immoral, or incorrigible. Never under-estimate the power of people to inject the Body of Christ with their particular form of "I" trouble. The staff infection is always a threat to the health of the church.

No matter how much "I" trouble a person exhibits, they always have a following. Trust me on this. Yes, even the immoral ones. One of my church staff members was involved in an adulterous relationship with one of the deacons of the church. When I tried to correct them, their church friends took offense at my interference. They assumed forgiveness meant, live and let live. It doesn't. You can't make this stuff up.

Taking up another person's offense is one of the great sideshows of the main event in a church. Like a puddle of water cut off from the refreshing, cleansing flow of the source, people who engage in it become a source of disease. The malaria carrying mosquitoes that breed in pools of personal preference and pious offenses are deadly to the Body.

Paul and Barnabas disagreed over Mark's effectiveness. The brethren let them sort it out between them without taking sides. Paul questioned Mark's reliability. He had deserted them before, and didn't want to give him a second chance. Barnabas probably questioned Paul's memory. There was a time when Paul had needed a friend, and Mark needed one now. Paul chose Silas, and went his way. Barnabas took Mark and prepared him for future service.

Eventually Paul would call for Mark to assist him. Paul had softened in his stance against the young evangelist, and Mark had matured in his walk with God. Time may not heal all wounds, but it certainly created a healthy bond between these two servants of God. Giving God time, allowed His Holy Spirit the elbow room He needs to develop the character of Christ in both men.

When you disagree with a person, prayer is the greatest healing component that can be brought to the wounded relationship. Praying with someone, and saying a blessing over them softens the heart of the one who prays, and the one who is being blessed.

Note to self. Praying at someone is a powerfully potent way to deliver a message, but it always deepens the wound and widens the gap of disagreement. Get it right. Pray for, not pray at.

Paul and Silas would eventually be separated. Barnabas and Mark would be together for a season. Nothing lasts forever except the love of God. The Gospel is the good news about the love of God expressed to the world, by His Son's death, burial and resurrection. For the church, this is the main event. Never let a sideshow move the spotlight of your life away from a focus on The Savior.

The system breeds systemic, and sharp disagreements between people who take their eyes off of Jesus and focus on their own rights. Dead men have no rights. Resurrected men crucify theirs.

Paul and Barnabas didn't let their disagreement with one another disengage them from their message, and their mission. In the process, God brought about healing to the relationship between Paul and Mark.

When faced with a disagreement on doctrine, or a disagreeable person in life, pray. Prayer invites God's direction, protection and correction, into the rift. The Spirit of God softens the hearts of people to receive His word of wisdom and knowledge. Invite The Spirit to step into every disagreement on doctrine, and every decision you make.

Prayer is the climate in which God gives grace to the humble to be corrected in doctrine, and to be reconciled in relationships. If you have been cut, pray for healing, for yourself, your opponent and your church. Praying brings healing, even in the midst of disagreeing. Praying together doesn't always lead to agreeing with one another. It does, however, stop the bleeding. Let the healing begin. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!