From Chris Crain, Director
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November 1, 2016, 10:59 AM

The Problem of Isolation

“The Problem of Isolation”

Sometimes success (or failure) breeds isolation. Pastors and churches that have experienced great “success” sometimes allow it to cloud their judgment. Recently, Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring, the largest church in the SBC, spoke of the isolation which led to his alcohol abuse and the loss of his pulpit. He stepped down from leading the Anderson, SC church several months ago.

Breaking the silence on Facebook, Noble wrote, “I was a hypocrite - I preached, ‘you can't do life alone’ and then went out and lived the opposite. Yes, the Scriptures do say we should seek solitude from time to time. However, solitude is refreshing, isolation is destructive. Isolation is where self-pity dominated my thinking, thus justifying my abuse of alcohol. Isolation is where self-doubt dominated my emotions, causing me to believe I just could not carry the weight anymore, and alcohol was necessary for me to make it through another day. Isolation is where self-hatred dominated my mentality - I hated myself, literally HATED myself for doing what I was doing, but believed the lie that this was just the way things were and there was no way it could ever get better. I chose isolation - all the while knowing that a strong community of people who really loved me would rally around me and walk with me through the valley I was in.”

I can understand how a pastor of over 30,000 in weekly attendance would want to isolate himself! My intention is not to throw stones! Please pray for Perry Noble and NewSpring Church!

Isolation is a consequence of current trends in churches today. We see a growing trend among some leaders and church members to unplug the local church from fellowship with other churches and denominational connections. “We live in a post-denominational society,” I have been told. After all, “why trouble yourself with the collective problems of churches trying to cooperate to make decisions, do missions, and spend money?” For a growing number, partnering with other churches in a denomination is an open and shut case: “I am a Christian and denominations are not needed.” However, is being isolation-minded wise as a church?

Isolation is against everything we teach. Let’s consider the "isolationist" mindset. Would we ever ask a Christian to unplug and disconnect from other believers? Would we ask a believer to do life in isolation? I hope your answer to these questions is a resounding NO! When I have isolated myself in my leadership, I’ve gotten into trouble. Isolation is not good for members within the church. Isolation is not good for the church as a whole either! When churches isolate themselves, they can become vulnerable and less effective with the Gospel.

Isolation makes no sense. Of course, I am biased. From my vantage point as Director of Missions, I believe we can do more together. We have great synergy—a cumulative effect—when churches collaborate. When our churches “hang out” together, they learn from each other’s successes and failures. We share resources and do more for the Kingdom.

Jesus Prayed for Unity, Not Isolation

Jesus prayed for spiritual unity among believers in what is called the “High Priestly Prayer.” The main theme of the prayer was God’s glory. Jesus’ death on the cross brought glory to the Father and this glory is displayed to the world, in part, through the unity of believers. The unity Jesus prayed for was a vibrant, divine fellowship that is compared to the relationship of the Father to the Son. Jesus prayed that our blood-bought, heavenly position of unity in Christ would become our earthly disposition.

Practically, unity begins at home and extends to all believers. The unity Jesus prayed for is far beyond a denominational unity. However, if we cannot get along with people we are supposed to agree with on the core teachings of the Bible, how will we ever experience unity with other believers? So, to apply Jesus’ words, it would be good to begin our quest to live out the answer to Jesus’ prayer to the Father by being personally unified with members of our own congregation and helping our church connect with our sister churches in the St. Clair Baptist Association!

Unity is an ongoing effort that continues from generation to generation by sharing the Gospel. Jesus prayed for believers in all ages. Jesus purposed that his disciples would carry out their mission and reach others. Jesus designed his Body to include baptized believers from a diversity of generations, cultures, personalities, and passions. This unity was experienced by the disciples who actually walked with Jesus 2,000 years ago and can be experienced by believers today. Reflect carefully on what Jesus prayed in John 17:20-23:

John 17:20-23 (KJV) Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.


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