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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  • Mr.Rainer, thank you for your contribution to the exact reason I became disillusioned with the hypocrisy within the church administration and often times the pastor.. at a early age of my life. After 50 plus years,
    I am so pleased that someone is addressing these issues. Unfortunately, many young people have withdrawn from church and religion because of the
    hypercritical format from within the church!

  • The truth of the matter is that, the truth is far fatch from most of our leader, and this makes their followers not knowing their faith.

  • Adeyemo joe says on

    In fact, your write up was very touching, may God continue to enrich your annointing in Jesus name

  • Brenda Perez says on

    I saw several similarities of list that almost reflects perfectly our church, no wonder it isn’t growing

  • Noelene says on

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom. It’s my understanding that every believer has the solution to disunity. This is my Senior Pastor John Torrens words “When believers are discipled they find freedom. They find their giftings and purpose. They function and flourish in the church. They not only know the vision but be the vision. It impacts every sphere of their lives”.
    Having an intimate relationship with God ensures living a sprit filled life . Led by the Holy Sprit ,fulfilling God’s will and not one’s own.

  • Love all your commets

  • Ysrael De la Cruz says on

    Thank you for your insight on this subject of unity. I have been a minister for about 20 years and I can testify that I have seen them all displayed in one way or another in the churches where I have served. Jesus wants his people to be united. This is what he prayed for in John 17.

  • T. I. Miller says on

    No one mentioned the possibility that the leadership is all to trusting of popular teachers.
    Pastors quote people who are not biblicaly sound on the essentials. They quote and recommend popular teachers who are introducing emergent and or new age. teachings
    Thinking that i was being a good Berean a good watchman on the wall a good defender of the faith, I brought this to the attention of leadership. I have been ignored, insulted and asked to leave. They let in the wolves and called me a devise trouble maker for noticing it. Leadership has puts their collective hands over their ears and rushed upon me like Stephen on trial.
    The lack of common sense discernment by today’s unity and deeds above truth and creeds pastors is pandemic.
    They are today perhaps a million church orphans who will not deny one word of scripture to accommodate the pastors vision. The humble receive wise council but proud and haughty will not.
    The spiritual blindness is so great it would seem the great delusion has been sent and they have become spiritually blind as bats.
    Every congregation belongs to Jesus not the pastor. Every Christian’s first love and loyalty belongs to Jesus not the pastor.

  • Why is the pastor not referenced? I’ve noticed many occasions of the pastor guilty of being a bully, forming power clicks to support his agenda, along with most of all the other reasons you mentioned in the article.
    Since most members view the pastor as ordained by God, they simply leave instead of confront.

  • The disunity of the churches comes from the loss of the One who brings unity, the Holy Spirit.
    Without the Gospel of death, burial and resurrection no one had the Indwelling Spirit of God. Being born again likes Jesus said in a John 3:3,5; Acts2:39-39; Galatians 3:26-27; Acts22:16, Colossisns 2:8-14, etc.
    Jesus did it all for us.
    He said, “it is finished”.
    People have lost the truth that sets free and unifies.
    When the Gospel is restored unity will be restored. We will be led by the Holy Spirit and not the flesh.

  • Kathe Sowards says on

    This is my prayer, for the church to be unified and work together. I believe if different denominations worked together in unity they could.transform their community because the community would be attracted to the churches love for one another and unity

  • Chatim Daniel Diu says on

    Those who are backbiting,they are those who have extremely disunity the Church and when he/she get the power and he or she missuses to ignorant the people.