There were a number of churches in a previous hometown of mine that were all very similar. I asked a knowledgeable friend about it to see if a single church had planted the rest or what. It turns out that this was the case, in a way. One group in the original church had gotten disgruntled and left, planting another church very similar to the first. Another group saw the success of this church and in the next disagreement left and planted another. From this plant, a disagreement arose and so they split and planted yet another. Eventually, there were a number of churches that were all very similar, all doing good ministry, and all existing because of conflict. While not an ideal way of planting churches, God seems to have blessed this situation, and one of these churches was adopted in to the Covenant recently.
Conflict within the church is both a painful time and a time for true growth. Little growth happens when all is going smoothly. Nonetheless, we all strive for a conflict-free life, and the early church wasn’t much different. This is why rabble-rousers like the Apostle Paul who stirred up uncomfortable trouble were so, well, troubling.
Another example is here in today’s reading. What happens when the missionary pair of Paul and Barnabas disagree about something as important as who travels with them? Barnabas trusts John Mark even though he abandoned them during their last trip for unknown reasons. Paul, on the other hand, disagrees and doesn’t want to take the risk of being abandoned again. So what do you do?
These two simply split up, each taking a different “second” and so created two missionary teams where once there was one. We don’t hear much about Barnabas and John Mark after this, but not because they are ineffective.
We avoid conflict primarily out of fear of this kind of division within the church. But we also trust God to redeem every situation. Maybe we can trust God in the midst of our own conflict as well.