A coroner once said that she could attribute any death to heart failure. Gunshot wound; ultimately heart failure. Excessive blood loss from any cause; heart failure. Diseases from diabetes to AIDS-related complications; heart failure. Even that diagnosis known as Congestive Heart Failure is medical speak for “we don’t know what is really wrong, but it will end up with heart failure.”
If a church dies; heart failure. If a Christian falls away; heart failure. In the cases above, the physical death is due to the failure of the physical heart. In the cases of churches and Christians it may be the metaphorical heart.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Rev 2:4)
Rarely does a church split except over matters of personal opinion or preference. Somebody doesn’t like the walls painted pea green (it was probably the cheapest paint available in quantity). Somebody didn’t like who got chosen for a particular position. These are heart failures. They aren’t problems with scriptural matters; they are problems with putting one’s own heart above that of the church.
Occasionally splits or fallings-away occur because of interpretations. Should women be allowed to preach? Should musical instruments be used in the worship of the assembly? Should the church treasury be used for certain things (besides pea green paint or carpet)? When these issues come up, sometimes there is a heart problem. It is not a new condition. The church has been splitting over interpretations almost from the beginning. In Rome some were vegetarians based on their interpretation of scripture, while others felt they could eat meat. Paul begged them not to let that divide them.
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. (Rom 14:17-20)
There is another way that heart failure is killing the church today, and it is going undiagnosed by those suffering from it. Some churches are baptizing many people, but are suffering from congestive heart failure. Some preachers are dying, and even spreading contagion, without recognizing that their heart has turned from love to hatred. Paul told the Galatians, “Do good unto all, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10) But some today seem to want that to say “exclusively” unto the household of faith. If one is not a believer, they seem to think that it is acceptable to hate. “Boycott Target,” they will say, over a certain issue, while at the same time deriding those who would boycott Chick-Fil-A over a similar issue. It is acceptable, according to some, to deny service to a group of people, but complain that the church is being persecuted when others deny certain privileges to them. Still others would deny Christian aid to members of a religious group because of the actions of a few; and yet they complain when they are judged on the actions of so-called Christians.
Put them in mind … to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. (Tit 3:1-2)