And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. – Romans 16: 17-18 (NLT) In 2007, Rick Warren sent a directive from his Pastors.com website imploring pastors to “get rid of troublemakers” in their congregations to protect unity at all costs because disunity is the greatest weapon the enemy wields. Just the fact that he stated disunity as the devil’s greatest weapon is absurd enough but digging deeper we see the foundations being laid for a lot of the poor “unity” theology bearing rotten fruit today. I was in a church once where the pastor said that if you had “ought against someone else in the congregation that you can’t make right, you need to leave.” I remember wondering where he could have gotten such a horribly unscriptural idea. Jesus preached on going after the one sheep, not leaving the pen door open and kicking the sheep out who might be “troublemakers.” Additionally, who gets to decide what a troublemaker is? If someone is actively working against the congregation, spreading lies and rumors, and not following biblical principles, then sure I think a case could be made – although it should start with pastoral intervention and counseling not a kick in the pants and out the door with you. The reality however here is that Warren was referring to people who disagreed with his purpose driven church model as troublemakers, mocking those who may have been more experienced in church by quipping that “all pillars do is hold things up.” Ouch. I sometimes get asked why I point to people like Osteen and Warren and the answer is that we don’t always see the far reaching damage they do to Christianity. We see the platitudes and photo ops and do not see how what goes on behind the scenes shapes the Christian leaders landscape. The Purpose Driven model is the blueprint and forerunner of the seeker friendly theories of church growth that permeate today’s Pentecostal churches. One of the most abused calls in the church today is the call for unity. It is not that God does not want unity in His church, He absolutely does. But what we are unified behind is what matters. If it is the Gospel according to Jesus Christ then we know we are on the right track but if it is the gospel according to Rick Warren; we are not. That is because at the end of the day the purpose driven church model cannot save anyone – only Christ can. The Apostle Paul knew this was going to be a problem as we see in his letter to the Romans. The key verses above contain several truths for us to unpack today. The first is that often the people crying division are the actual ones doing the dividing. There is a principle that needs to be applied when we accuse someone of dividing the church. That principle found in the key verses says that they must be upsetting people’s faith by teaching something contrary to the Gospel. Paul had this problem in the Church at Galatia: Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experiencedso much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? – Galatians 3: 1-4 (NLT) The Gospel teaches us that Christ’s death covers our sins, not adherence to the law yet the Galatians were listening to false teachers who were mixing in the Law of Moses. Look how seriously Paul addresses them! Foolish! Was your conversion for nothing! In fact, how serious does God take the perversion of the Gospel? I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! – Galatians 1: 6-9 (NIV) A lot of modern congregations today are spiritually ignorant. They play follow the leader instead of doing as the Bereans did and test everything, as the Bible commands us to do. I have heard well intended Christians state that they do not get into the doctrinal disagreements or church politics because they are just “serving God.” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way! Division today has been warped to mean anyone who disagrees with leadership – even if they are biblically supported! When you shift from reaching the unsaved to reaching the unchurched, this is the end result. Unity no longer has to do with the Gospel but rather the individual churches themselves. Sheep suddenly only count if they are docile and “baa” the way you want them to. And the people keep putting up with it, like the Church at Corinth: You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. – 2Corinthians 11: 4 (NLT) Wait a minute preacher, when did we put up with another gospel? When you turned a blind eye to the abuses within your own church. When you paid no mind to the continued secularization of your church. Silence is complicity. Because as the key verses teach us, REAL division is when someone is teaching things contrary to the Gospel. The second truth is that such people are serving their own interests, not God. Sounds harsh? Is it any harsher then referring to the elders in your church as people who hold things up because they believe in doing things the way the Bible says? Now we need to realize something right here – this is not an attack upon motives or the heart of anyone. It is a support for what the BIBLE says. I can live with the idea that Rick Warren or Joel Osteen sincerely believe in what they do. As my pastor likes to say however, you can be sincere and sincerely wrong. When you have thousands of people applauding you every week it might be difficult to hear the Gospel trying to get through. Lastly, they deceive innocent people with smooth talk and glowing words. Osteen, perhaps the smiliest smooth talker there is once said, “All of us are born for earthly greatness.” That sure sounds like smooth glowing words; so what’s the problem? Well besides being factually inaccurate it is completely inaccurate from a Biblical standpoint! Yet people hear that and it tickles their ears and they want to hear more of it. And when someone stands in the gap and shouts that it is the heresy that it is – that person is branded as being a divider when in reality it is the false teaching that is doing the dividing! We have to start being more responsible with the Word of God we are taught. We have to start behaving like the Bereans. I heard a horrific message this week from a mega church pastor I actually like on a lot of matters. This message however, was on tithing, a topic many pastors get wrong. Amidst the usual poor theology however, he stated that “God takes it so seriously that we need to look at Ananias and Sapphira! God struck them dead for holding back what belonged to God!” Ehhh, no He did not. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” – Acts 5: 3-4 (NLT) The context of this story makes it quite clear that they were not struck dead because the held back a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the property but that they lied about it. They tried to make themselves look better to the Apostles than they were willing to be in real life. One might say that they had the first real religious spirit in the Christian church. Wanting to look more spiritual than they really were. To somehow equate that to tithing is simply false teaching. Yet we lap it up sometimes. We assume what we hear is truth because the man saying it is standing behind a pulpit. We need to have our spiritual antennae up beloved. We need to discern what is from God and what is from man. The true dividing line is always the Word of God. It is called a two edged sword because its purpose is to cause division. That division is between those who believe in it unto salvation and those who do not. When you hear the calls for unity and the accusations of disunity take a good hard look at what side the Bible is on – that is the side you want to line up with. Rev. Anthony.