When a church – God’s house – is split by disagreement, the experience grieves God and wounds everyone in the congregation. After all, as Jesus said, a house that’s divided cannot stand.  In the mess of a church split, evil runs free in your church, twisting God’s values. People begin to justify anger as fighting for a principle and excuse slander and gossip as searching for the truth.

But there are ways to prevent such heartache from infecting your church.  Here’s how you can prevent a church split:

* Ask God’s forgiveness. Acknowledge that any lack of unity that exists in your church is sin. Ask God to forgive you for tolerating it, and to cleanse both staff and laypeople of the effects of division.

* Recognize the real issue. Understand that disagreements about the style of music or way the sanctuary is decorated or how long sermons should be are just surface issues that mask the real, core issue: In spite of their differences, will your congregation defend the unity of Christ within the fellowship? Refuse to be manipulated by false issues. Respect different people’s personal preferences and appreciate the diversity that exists within your church. Decide to remain united in love.

* Choose to pray instead of prey. Rather than criticizing people when they bother you, decide to pray for them instead. Remember that no one is perfect, that Christ loves everyone unconditionally. Realize that mere criticism won’t help people change, but prayer has the power to cause great growth and transformation. Regularly intercede for others in your church.

* Think of seekers. Consider how pettiness and discord in the church drives people who otherwise might have come to Christ away. Ask God to make you aware of how well you and others your church are truly reflecting Christ as His ambassadors. Ask Him to prevent your church from causing seekers to stumble.

* Confess unrestrained ambition. Be honest with yourself and God about any pride and selfish motives that have contributed to strife in your church. Don’t try to push another person out of a ministry position that you want. Instead, ask God to help you be patient and trust Him to provide you the opportunities He wants you to have, at the right time. Be content to wholeheartedly serve God where He has currently placed you.

* Serve without strings attached. Don’t give your time or energy to a project just because you hope to get something for yourself out of it. Don’t flatter people or meet their needs for the purpose of manipulating them to do something you want. Ask God to give you a real servant’s heart that truly desires to help without expecting anything in return but the knowledge that your service pleases God.

* Make sure “prophecy” is genuine. Understand that, if you think you may have heard a prophetic message from God, you should submit your perceptions to church leaders and trust God to bring it to pass, if He chooses, at the right time. Realize that God has placed your church’s leaders in their current positions to guide the church. Know that, if any change is to come, it should come through the proper channels of authority that have been set up at your church. When you pray, intercede without trying to control.

* Avoid gossip. Refuse to gossip yourself or listen to other people spread gossip. Understand that words have incredible spiritual power; positive words can do much to heal and encourage, but negative words are potent poison that can destroy people in your church. Ask God to purify your lips. Refrain from discussing other’s faults and failures whenever you can. And whenever it’s truly necessary to do so, don’t harbor any malice toward them. Let grace and mercy motivate your words and actions toward others in your church. Seek redemption, not revenge. Devote much more time to praying for people than you do talking about them.