It sometimes happens that feuds and factions spring up in churches, greatly hindering the progress of the work, and turning souls from the church in discouragement and disgust. "For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." James 3 :16. Our wily adversary knows that strife in the church can do far more to hinder the work than all the opposition that can be mustered from the outside. We are told : "The Lord does not now work to bring many souls into the truth, because of the church members who have never been converted, and those who were once converted but who have backslidden."—"Testimonies," Vol. VI, p. 371.
Thousands of dollars have been expended upon efforts conducted by able evangelists, but division and strife in the local churches have sometimes hindered effective co-operation, bringing discouragement and failure. The elimination of factions and the bringing in of unity becomes, therefore, a matter of first consideration for the pastor, if the church is to become a fit and attractive place to bring new converts. The local worker holds the key to the situation. It is of the utmost importance that he should establish himself in the confidence of his people as being fair and impartial, and deeply interested in the soul of every member without regard to faction, position, wealth, or poverty. The moment it becomes known that a worker is favoring one faction in a church, his influence is dead with the other group.
In taking oversight of a church, I have followed the practice of informing the congregation that I do not purpose to become a father confessor, particularly where persons have a burden to confess other people's sins, and I have found our people glad to co-operate. Not only must the worker take a decided position against permitting his mind to become prejudiced by one-sided reports, which are invariably colored and exaggerated by personal prejudice, but he must lead his people to a deep and genuine Christian experience which will substitute the fruits of the Spirit for the works of the flesh, and the love of Christ for the spirit of hatred and ill will. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." It is our task as workers to get at the root of the matter by reaching and changing the heart through the Spirit of God. "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out ; so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth." Prov. 26 :20.
A sore cannot heal if it is being picked at continually. Neither can a mud puddle be cleared up if it is continually stirred. Church trials, with their spirit of self-justification and recrimination, generally deepen and widen the gulf. But where hearts are melted by the influence of the Spirit of God, differences are quickly made up in a genuine spirit of conciliation.
It is important to keep the members busy in constructive activities and soul-winning endeavor. Satan always finds work for idle hands to do. A passer-by was once attracted by the barking of a dog team, but was unable to discover the occasion for the barking. He inquired of the boy driver, "At what are your dogs barking?" "Mister," answered the lad, "it is easier for the dogs to bark than to pull."
When the members of the church are absorbed in soul-winning activities, disciplinary problems are at a minimum. Of all times in the year when special care is needed, we would say it is at the time of the annual church election. On such occasions small sparks can easily be fanned into a full-size conflagration, and old feuds revived, especially if one group manages to get control of the nominating committee in an endeavor to elect its own candidates and to blackball others.
We recall one such occasion on which the nominating committee, appointed by the church board, was controlled by the members of the dominant faction. It appeared that all the pastor had done to unify the church was about to be swept away by partisan prejudices. But the pastor quietly suggested to influential members of the committee that the impartial selection of consecrated, capable officers from both groups would avoid the threatened stirring up of fratricidal strife, and would cement the unity of the church. The counsel was followed with the happiest results.
To remove the danger of suspicion that the church board is seeking to control the election in its selection of members of the nominating committee, some churches wisely associate with the board an additional five or seven members as a committee to appoint the nominating committee. The results are very satisfactory. May the day be hastened when the disciples again are all with one accord in one place, so that under the final outpouring of the Spirit of God in pentecostal power this work can be quickly finished, and the kingdom of everlasting love, joy, and peace be set up."