Wednesday, March 20, 2002
Our friends recently got a new horse - number five of the little herd they have in their barn and pasture. This one is the biggest of the lot - half Morgan, half Belgian, for those to whom that means anything. As soon as she was let out of her corral for the first time, it was interesting to watch the social interaction in the Pasture Club. The smallest horse - a strong-minded Arabian horse came up real close to the new girl on the block, pushing to see who would be in charge. The answer: a swift kick in the hindquarters. The next couple of hours was an equine soap opera as each horse asserted their claim to their turf and maneuvered for dominance - and to be sure who was the herd boss in this new arrangement.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A WORD WITH YOU today about "Turf Wars."
This all sounds strangely familiar for someone who's listening - maneuvering for position, for dominance, establishing turf, fighting for turf. Except it's not a horse pasture we're talking about in this case. It may be your church, your office, your ministry - pushing for turf. It may be turf issues, ego issues, control issues that threaten to divide your church - or that are keeping churches and ministries from working together in Jesus' name.
Unfortunately, turf wars are not something new. Paul was addressing them with the Corinthian church in the first century. In our word for today from the Word of God, 1 Corinthians 1, beginning in verse 10. "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." It's clear that Christ is expecting us to be working together harmoniously, not working against one another contentiously.
He goes on to address what he calls "quarrels among you." Here come the turf wars. "One of you says: 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, (now here comes the really spiritual group) 'I follow Christ'. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?" Division and dissension start when people forget that it's all about Jesus and start to make it all about themselves.
It must have greatly hurt Jesus to hear his disciples arguing over who would be the greatest in His kingdom on the very night He had told them He was going to die. Jesus answered by saying "he who is least among you all - he is the greatest" (Luke 9:48) and then by taking a towel and basin and doing the dirty job of washing their feet.
But the horses in God's herd start polarizing and maneuvering and playing control games when our agenda becomes more important than God's agenda (of course, we always think our agenda is God's agenda), where there's jealousy, when we go to others with our issues rather than to the person involved, when power and pride and position become our real motivations, or when winning replaces Biblical submitting. And sadly, God's churches in a community are divided from one another by turf. Thus diluting the impact of the witness for Christ to a lost and dying world.
Fighting for turf and dominance - it doesn't bring out the best in horses and it surely doesn't bring out the best in God's children. In fact, it brings out our worst - and gives Satan a wide open door to undermine the work of Jesus Christ. The only turf war worth fighting is to fight against turf wars! Be sure you're a uniter, not a divider - a servant, not a personality - a healer, not a hurter - and just keep reminding folks that it's not about us - it's all about Jesus.