Fragmentation

A Statement of the Problem

One of the current problems affecting local Church life is that of "Fragmentation," where for a variety of reasons, some assemblies divide along the lines of sex, age, groups or geographical location to practice the exercises of the local church. This trend is a danger to the church and a denial of the unity of the Body of Christ as taught in the N.T. Also in some cases, it is an attempt to circumvent the teaching of the N.T. regarding the conduct of men and women in the Church, as such groups are no longer deemed to be "church meetings."

The New Testament Teaching Regarding Unity In The Local Church

The N.T. makes it clear that each local church is intended to be a replica of the Body of Christ in all its unity and diversity (1Cor.12). Like the human body, each member has a particular function, but its usefulness can only be realised when it takes its place along with the others, and works in unity for the well-being of the body. The apostle Paul wrote"From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph 4:16 AV). This is a logical extension of what the apostle had been teaching in the earlier part of the chapter where he wrote "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all " (Eph 4:3-6 AV). Fragmentation in the church, whatever its form, is a denial of the truth presented in these verses where the apostle is at pains to emphasis the " oneness" of all things connected with the Church. Similarly in John17, the Lord Jesus constantly emphasized the unity of the believers. "That they may be one even as we (the Godhead) are one." To dissect and dismember the Body is a scriptural enigma. Fragmentation of the local gatherings of the saints is in effect a dismembering of the Body of Christ, and a departure from the example of the Godhead. It can only lead to disaster.

The Protection Afforded By Togetherness

1 Cor.14 gives us a glimpse of the early local church in operation, and one of the concerns the apostle had was the integrity of the teaching ministry, and the importance of having spiritually qualified people doing the teaching, and judging its integrity. We read " Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge" (1Cor.14). Here we have the secret to preventing the inroads of error into the church. When prophets speak the " others " have to judge. There are two words for ' others" in the original text, one meaning ' others of the same kind," and the other meaning " others of a different kind." The word used in the text is the first, meaning that when prophets speak the other prophets judge. This cannot take place in a group where there is no control over the teaching. The writer knows of an assembly which at one time was experimenting with home bible studies. A brother attending one of such studies, came to him in distress, because in one such study, they had concluded that the Lord Jesus must have been able to sin or he would not have been a real human being. This is serious doctrinal error, but nobody was there to correct it. The " other prophets" were not present. There are also examples where fragmentation encouraged by elders got out of control, and fractured the entire church. This is surely a warning as to the inherent dangers of fragmentation, and that it should be avoided at all costs.

Unity In The Early Church

In the Acts the expression " with one accord." is mentioned no less than 11 times. The phrase is one single word in the original text, derived from two Greek words, the one meaning " to rush along," and the other meaning " together." Scholars have suggested that the word has a musical connotation, in that an orchestra rushes along, but there is a togetherness about it all because they are all operating as one under the control of the conductor. So it was in the early church. There was no thought about breaking up into groups. They were all together in one place ( Acts2:1). Why would we want to change this? In closing, the Body of Christ is one, and we must preserve this at all costs. We court danger if we depart from the example of the early church as established by the apostles. Let us commit ourselves to being "with one accord in one place" for the exercises of the local church.