1. Sometimes you hear people marveling, "Why do churches nowadays have so many conflicts?"
2. Ecclesiastes 7:10 tells us, "Do not say, 'Why is it that the former days were better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this."
3. Church conflict is a case in point. Here the church had just convened the Jerusalem Council to address a conflict over doctrine: did gentile believers have to convert to Judaism before being saved.
4. Right after this conflict ends, another begins. This is a conflict between two amazingly godly men, Paul and Barnabas. These examples, plus the many conflicts mentioned in I Corinthians and Revelation 2-3 lead us to conclude that conflict – while something we should seek to preclude and minimize – should not shock us.
5. Although a church may experience runs of peace, conflict is inevitable. It is better to address periodic conflict than to do what the church ended up doing– centralizing authority and burning dissenters at the stake.
6. Conflict should be a normal expectation of church life; we should embrace it much as we embrace the idea that aging brings aches and pains. It is the way it is; we can make it better or worse, but we cannot eliminate it. And it is important that we act like Christians even in the midst of conflict.
Main Idea: Sometimes opinions divide us so strongly that we have no choice but to separate company.
I. The Players in this Drama: DEDICATED, Godly Men
A. Paul (Acts 22:3ff)
Studied under the leading Rabbi, GAMALIEL
1. PERSECUTED the church
2. Amazing CONVERSION and calling
1. Generous (Acts 4:36-37)
2. INDIVIDUAL oriented (Acts 9:26-27)
3. He oriented and developed PAUL (Acts 11:22-26)
C. John Mark
1. COUSIN of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10)
• early church was predominantly made up of extended family groups
• considered a blessing and something we should aim for
• but there can be an added vulnerability when conflict arises
• blood is often thicker than water, even in the Kingdom of God
2. The young runner of Mark 14:51
3. The DESERTER (Acts 15:38)
Application: If you look at these three men, they were amazingly godly. Mark writes the Gospel of Mark. Paul writes 10 letters in our New Testament. Barnabas trains both Paul and Mark. If these guys could not see eye to eye, why do modern disagreements surprise us?
II. Both Had VALID Points, But PERSONALITY Meant Differing Emphases
A. Paul focused on MISSION and the good of the majority
1. The issue was not one of forgiveness, but credibility and dependability
2. We can assume Mark asked for forgiveness, but trust comes in time
B. Barnabas focused upon RECLAMATION and developing the individual
1. Again, this is an important calling; Jesus, for example, expended effort to restore and reclaim Peter after is denials…
2. Mark was reclaimed; he became an important helper to Paul later on (2 Timothy 4:11) and ended up authoring Mark's Gospel
C. No Mission, No REASON to exist; No PEOPLE orientation, a cold organization
1. Personality type comes into play:
• Thinker/accuracy types.
2. Barnabas was relational, Paul was more achiever and thinker
3. The HPC mission statement seeks to present a particular balance, one I think we need to return to: "The mission of Highland Park Church is to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to connect believers to one another and to God, and to deepen them in their Christian walk."
Application: Churches, including ours, are suspended by lines that pull in differing directions. Our personality types are going to drive our priorities. If our church is almost identical in ministry and personality to other churches in our area, why do we exist? Why not just merge?
III. Though The Conflict Created DEEP Feelings, They Still Collaborated
Paul and Barnabas were hot; disagreement was so sharp that they could not collaborate.
When we sharply disagree, we need to be careful not to villainize others
A. MARK would become a key player
• So was Barnabas wrong?
B. Past differences were put ASIDE
• A good argument why you should not burn your bridges
• To burn your bridges is to go beyond the point of no return…
• A family left here years ago, burned bridges with a letter, but we did not read it…
C. Ended up as a BOTH AND, Not Either/OR
• At the time, the church sided with Paul ("commended") (40)
• Why did God not reveal his will, as he did to Paul later when he gave him a vision to go to Macedonia? Perhaps because two mission fronts was God's will? Perhaps to develop Silas while Barnabas developed Mark.
• Isn't this the way it is with us so often? We have no revelation from God, but we disagree as to how God is leading. It's okay, if we handle it rightly.
1. I hope it doesn't happen to you, but sometimes opinions divide us so strongly that we have no choice but to separate company.
2. If so, stay sane, do not express all you are thinking, and do not burn your bridges. You never know what the future holds, or how God can use such things.