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Ask Abbie: Denominational issue: Is the Devil in the details?

Published 9:35am Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Question: I grew up in the Baptist church but joined the Methodist church after I graduated from college.

Every time I come home I have to hear my Baptist grandmother tell me that the Methodist church has things mixed up and how it isn’t following the Bible especially on the baptism issue.

I must admit some of what she says makes sense. What are your thoughts?

Confused Methodist

Answer: “The devil is in the details.” This idiom, although not to be taken literally, does literally describe what happens within the Christian church once “denominational differences” are considered as inconsequential details, rather than as fundamental absolutes, to God’s overall purpose. The following seeks to explain how and why this phenomena occurs as well as the detrimental effect it has on the church as a whole.

Ever since the first official Christian denomination was formed in 1054AD as a result of the formal split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, there has been an unimaginable amount of time spent not only on researching, debating, and studying denominational differences but also on dissension that arose as a result. Imagine the amount of time that could have been applied toward advancing the kingdom of God if only the church had dedicated itself to combining the efforts of the different denominations based on their similarities rather than to allowing the denominations to put distance between themselves based on their differences. The church has lost a lot of time and will continue to operate in it’s compromised position until willing to acknowledge there is a problem.

According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 32% of Americans, which is approximately equal to 100.5 million people, do not consider God or religion to be an important part of their lives. This one statistic alone proves, to those of Christian faith there is a problem because, according to the Bible, it is God’s desire for every person to experience the good things He has waiting for them once they acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior. The problem is enhanced when God asks Christians to help Him accomplish His goal by spreading His message to as many people as possible yet denominational differences are allowed to rob time from that initiative.

Now that the problem has been substantiated, the enemy behind the problem must be identified and confronted in order for the church to stop falling victim and to start claiming victory. The Bible’s Book of Ephesians confirms the identity of the church’s enemy to be the devil.

It further explains how no struggles within or outside of the church are with people but rather with the powers of the dark world and with the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

With the enemy’s true identity now exposed, the church must get mad enough at the devil before it will take the initiative to launch an appropriately targeted attack. Once ready the Church’s first line of defense will be to speak the Word of Truth over the enemy and then use it’s faith to believe and trust God will get the job done in His perfect timing. This approach enables God’s power which is all the church needs to defeat any and all of it’s enemies.

Throughout this battle the church should remain on constant alert for any new, unique, and subtle enemy initiatives. Hypocrisy and judgmental attitudes among Christians themselves are perfect examples of these divisive attacks.

Lastly, the church must guard itself against rising dissension among it’s members by refusing to assign value to denominational differences. Once value is assigned to an opinion, and that opinion then comes in contact with one that differs from it, an automatic assessment occurs. Once one opinion is deemed more valuable than the other, disagreements ensue, and dissension is bred.

These defensive strategies will not stop the enemy’s attacks from coming but they will keep the attacks from inflicting even the slightest bit of harm. Victory is eminent as long as the church constantly declares and believes God, not it, is the one fighting it’s battles and that His weapons are bigger and stronger than all of the enemy’s combined.

You will have to excuse me now. I am going for a donut. In fact, I think I will have two, one sprinkled and one dunked. I like them both. No need to waste time deciding between the two.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to askabbie@tidewaternews.com.

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