Self-imposed isolation (3 John 9), fence-building (Galatians 2:11) and burned bridges (Acts 15:39) are the consequences when God’s fellow workers no matter who they are trampled under foot God’s field and destroy God’s building.
Any of these three examples mentioned above over a long or short period of time have the potential to destroy a church group, whether Christ is preached out of false motives or true.
Paul the apostle foretold this will happen in Acts 20:30 (New American Standard Bible) and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Here “the disciples” who belong to the Lord (Acts 9:1) might become disciples of men! How does this manifest amongst Christians?
Self-imposed isolation happens when individuals refuses to co-operate in the gospel of Christ.
They love to be first and their opinions matters more than anything else. They may enforce their opinions onto the group in such a manner – even to the point of excluding others who might disagree with them. The elder comforted Gaius to persevere in a manner worthy of God, unlike Diotrephes, 3 John 9,10 (New American Standard Bible), who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.
The characteristic of self-imposed isolation leads to a conduct not worthy of God - a lack of love. Other symptoms are evident such as pride, independence, slander or malicious talk, spiritual abuse, interference and dictatorship.
Combating a self-imposed style ministry is to call attention what the individual is doing. Expose the mannerisms not worthy of God, for example gossiping maliciously. Bring to attention other issues that undermined God’s standard of Christian conduct – a lack of love, inhospitality, interference and dictatorship.
Fence-building happens when individuals confuses the correctness of Scripture with wrong conclusions.
In other words, a doctrinal outlook not base on the gospel of Christ but man. For example: Jesus as Rabbi, Master, Lord and Teacher taught his disciples but we may not conclude teaching our own disciples for Him because Christians are not Rabbi’s, Masters, Lords and Teachers (Matthew 23:8-10).
A Rabbi is a Teacher but a Christian teacher IS NOT A RABBI! The word ‘Rabbi’ qualifies the meaning of the word ‘teacher’ in Matthew 23:8. We may have teachers in Christ’ church, but not Rabbis. In other words, Christian teachers may NOT have disciples. What Jesus forbids is an organizational TEACHER / STUDENT relationship among his followers. And this exactly what is advocated in the ICC and ICOC! Their doctrine on discipleship developed due to the result of fence-building as observed in the book of Galatians.
Here, Paul asks us, Galatians 1:11 (New American Standard Bible), For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Fence-builders always claim their new insight comes from God.
Even the apostle Peter and Paul’s fellow-worker, Barnabas were led astray by powerful persuasion from fence-builders advocating circumcision.
The characteristic of fence building differs from self-imposed isolation – not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. Here the slightest doubt in the mind of an individual might crack under pressure from peers who advocates man-made teachings. Other symptoms are evident such as fear, doubt, separation and hypocrisy.
Combating a fence-builder style ministry is to publicly confront and oppose whomever to his face! Present the facts of the situation before and after in a logical manner. Ask questions and make statements. Anchor your argument not on your own opinions but on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Finally, burned bridges.
So much is said about the sudden departure of the apostle Paul and his fellow-worker, Barnabas. No matter how you might ‘interpret’ their disagreement – good or bad – the result of their short-lived friendship end up with burned bridges! Never to be unified again in the New Testament.
The friendships started up in Acts 11 with much promise for the future fizzled out abruptly with a sharp disagreement a few chapters later on!
Such is life.
It is in our human nature to disagree even to have strong opinions that might differ radically with others perception. What we need to appreciate from this lesson of burned bridges is the element of ‘loss’ for the sake of an idea.
Reading this passage personally always saddens me, Acts 15:39 (New American Standard Bible), And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.
Burned bridges do not originate with an argument. No, they happen because of self-esteem, which makes the situation disagreeable. Discord is not out of the question whenever a person imposes needs over others who disagree.
The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas seemingly never affect the Gentile ministry. However, it surely ruined a good friendship in the Lord.
Perhaps, we can take comfort despite the element of loss that life goes on and not to make too much of it, but remain focussed on the tasks ahead. Both men just done that for sure!
Characteristics of burned bridges might be bitterness, pride and stubbornness.
Combating burned bridges is to dowse the flames quickly before they run out of control. Listen to logic not emotions and try to reach an agreement. If in reason no compromise can be made rather depart on friendlier terms. Easier said than done☺
Some individuals in church groups have separated ways by causing factions. Such occurrences can never be justified in the same light of the disagreement of Paul and Barnabas.
The motto for disciples in the Lord – not men, should ring true, 1 Corinthians 3:9 (New American Standard Bible), For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.