Have you ever seen a really bad break-up? Or maybe even a divorce? When people are joined together, and then torn apart, it is usually the result of sin—on both parts. Unfortunately, such divorces happen even within the church, and I’m not just talking about marriages. There are pastors who can’t get along with each other, or deacon bodies that can’t get along with their pastor, so they separate. Have you ever been to a small town in the south? Nearly every town has a First Baptist Church, and many also have a Second Baptist Church. Sometimes they are right down the road from each other! You can only assume that someone at First Baptist Church got so fed up with some other members that he decided, “I’m gonna make my own church instead!”
Unfortunately, such separation within the church is also usually a result of sin. Most of the time that we see people separate, it is because of sin. But separation is not always sinful, as we will see in today’s Scripture passage. Please read Genesis 13:1-13.
Now, some people might ask, “why couldn’t Lot’s servants just get along with Abram’s servants? Then they wouldn’t have to separate at all?” But that’s missing the point. As people grow, it is only natural that they spread out and separate.
Think of the child that has grown up in your own home. While no parent wants their children to leave home, eventually, they reach a point where it is unhealthy for them to remain at home—they need to separate from their parents. Separation is a natural part of life. Eventually, our children grow up and need to start making decisions for themselves. Every teenager thinks that they know everything, and as they grow, they naturally strive against their parents’ authority. Eventually we need to let them out into the world where they can learn how little they actually know, and better appreciate how smart their parents actually are. It is unhealthy for a 40 year-old child to live at home with his parents. Eventually, we must separate.
As Abram and Lot grew in livestock and herds and servants, there were simply too many people on top of one another. They needed a little elbow room, so Abram proposed that they separate in order to maintain the peace. This doesn’t mean that anyone was wrong or that anyone was sinning. It was only natural that a growing family should spread out. As we will see a few chapters later, Abram still kept in touch with Lot and had concern for his nephew, but he had to let him separate so that they both could prosper.
The same is true with the church. While it is beautiful to have a church that gets along great, and has for many years, it is unhealthy if a church has never sent members out into other parts of the world. Each healthy church should produce members who can separate from the rest of the body and go out into the mission field, or to pastor another church, or to be part of a church plant.
That is certainly my desire for Fort Howard Community Church. I know that missionaries have come out of this church, and I hope that we continue to produce more missionaries and pastors and church planters who will “journey east” (or west or whatever), and will separate from us in fulfillment of the Great Commission. Because not all separation is sinful. When separation is done for the glory of God, it only helps to expand His kingdom on earth. Just don’t name your church plant “Fort Howard Community Church II.”