Fourteen Key Reasons for the Breakdown of Church Unity

This post has a negative perspective to it. I freely admit it.

I addressed the positive perspective of it in a recent podcast.

Sometimes we have to face the reality of a sickness before we are willing to seek treatment. Please read the next sentence carefully. One of the greatest sicknesses in our churches in America is disunity. Indeed, many of the problems we think we have are really just symptoms of the breakdown of unity in the church.

The early church in Jerusalem thrived because it was so unified. Acts 2:47 says: “(They were) praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (HCSB). The phrase “having favor with all the people” refers to those on the outside looking at the church on the inside. They saw a selfless and unified church, and were thus attracted to it.

So what are some of the key reasons we are seeing the breakdown of unity in our churches? Though my list is not exhaustive, allow me to share fourteen of those reasons.

  1. Gossip. Church members talk about one another instead of talking to one another. Paul calls church members who gossip people “filled with all unrighteousness” (Romans 1:29, HCSB).
  2. Actions cloaked in darkness. I recently heard of a church personnel committee and a few church staff members who worked in darkness to fire a pastor without ever meeting with him first or giving him reasons for his dismissal. Then they refused to respond to church members who were asking questions.
  3. Failure to confront church bullies. Some church members seek power in a church they can’t get elsewhere. They are devious and dangerous. They must be courageously confronted.
  4. Self-serving church members. Some church members insist on getting their way for everything from worship style to the order of the worship service. Biblical church membership, however, is selfless and more concerned about others.
  5. Lack of prayer. A church that does not pray together is likely to fragment into special interest groups.
  6. Fear of confrontation. Too many church members would rather sweep problems under the rug than deal with them. I know of one church where two deacons were known to be having affairs. No one wanted to deal with it.
  7. Adopting the hypercritical spirit of culture. This reality is especially true in blogs and social media. I’ve seen many pastors attacked publicly on Twitter and Facebook.
  8. Low expectations. Many churches have no clear guidelines on what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. If you expect little from members, that’s exactly what you’ll get. And some of them will use their idle time to gossip, criticize, and tear down.
  9. No church discipline. The majority of churches with which I have familiarity have no process for church discipline, or they have a process in place in theory only.
  10. Churches known more for what they are against rather than what they are for. This negativity becomes pervasive in the congregation and destroys church unity.
  11. Fear of losing members. I am familiar with one church plagued by a spirit of divisiveness by one particular member. No members have confronted him because they don’t want to lose one of the biggest givers in the church.
  12. Failure to be evangelistic. I have never known a church member who is both evangelistic and divisive.
  13. Power groups. Sometimes the bullies in the church get allies to form power groups. They may be informal groups, or they can be formal groups like elders, deacons, staff, or personnel committees.
  14. The silent and fearful majority. One church member said it is not always good to know the truth. Such a statement is unbiblical and symptomatic of members who let evil exist because they are afraid to confront it.

One of the greatest problems in our churches is the breakdown of church unity. It is insidious, debilitating, and destructive.

Paul urged us “to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keep the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” (Ephesians 4: 1-3, HCSB).

Jesus said in John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The breakdown of church unity is one of the most critical problems in our churches today. Are you part of the solution? Let me hear from you.

Posted on May 13, 2015

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Excellent post.

    I’m excited to read more in the comments as I’m actually writing a book on this topic.

    Would love to speak with you more about this.

    It’s funny because one of the things I wrote is that everyone knows what the church is against but nobody knows what the church is ‘for’. And God gave me the same scripture in Ephesians as the basis of this theme.

    • Abraha lemlem says on

      I am coming out of chrch and change to other from now

      1. the pastor has over dominating the chrch. he wants everything to go in his wish
      2. he stared other business beside shepherd and he has no time to mange to sheep
      3. people are coming out of chrch becouse of diagreemnt with him
      4. he frequently say every chrch memeber should submit to him. one has to fer him
      5. teachers are coming out of chrch with personal disagreemnt and this is noy discussed in the chrch
      but know the pastor is man of God with visions, preach, do many favors to me in deliverances and helaings but I could agre with him due to above reaeons

  • Rodney says on

    I’m at a total loss for words , I’m a new Christian 14 months ago I gave my life of meth addiction up and cried out to God, all has been great up tell the last few weeks at my church a division has came in over our Sunday school teacher and half of the congregation the younger ages 30- 40 age has split off and when asked why by me I was told that the word of God is not being tought , this is so over whelming to me I feel like I’ve been deceived and confusion is upon me , I don’t now who to believe, I thought I had found peace and always enjoyed the love I felt as I thought we was United as one but it’s been nothing but a lie , I’m just crushed I was used to being lied to in the past cause I was a meth i.v user and lies was part of the game , I feel like giving up cause I no longer now who I can trust and that really bothers me I needed to have a place to warship with others in a single man who suffers from PTSD and bipolar disorder so isolation is not good for me , but I don’t want to be apart of deception division and lies , please pray for me this is my soul on the line .

  • Placido Diaz says on

    The primary reason for Christian disunion is that most Christians are ignorant of what it means to be a Christian-to be a follower of the Christ. How can they follow the Christ when He is not introduced to Him, so they do not know Him?

    I think the only way for us Christians to reunite is to recognize ourselves and others as brothers and sisters, children of our One Father in Heaven, loving and serving one another, assisting one another on the journey to the “place reserved for you since Creation.”

  • Thanks a lot Mark for this. We should all pray for a better church. It’s the last days and if Christ meets the church this way it won’t be funny.
    Anyways, thanks again. It’s helpful for my seminar.

  • Report and evidence of that churches lack structure, being lead by younger attendees and or who are immature in the Lord. Their appears to be authority issues, long time members, elders are being replaced by favorites…..Just examining , thanks susie

  • Rob Bohall says on

    Isn’t disunity the natural fruit of the Protestant Reformation? If you don’t like how things are, split off and go your own way.

  • No doubt all of these cause disunity. But I think all of these might be symptoms and the more foundational issue/cause is a lack of understanding the Gospel. Many people attending church are only cultural Christian, not born again.