1 Corinthians 1:10-17, 3:4-9
One of the issues the ancient church at Corinth struggled with was division. In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to that church he wasted no time in identifying one of the main sources of their conflict. Apparently, the church had been influenced by a cult, the cult of personality. The people in the church had divided their loyalty among several key church leaders. Some people had aligned themselves with either Paul or Apollos, while others claim exclusive allegiance to Peter or Jesus Christ. It would seem that the last group had the right idea, but lived it out in a divisive way.
Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that every human leader in the church is just that – a human leader. Compared to God the Father, or His Son, Jesus Christ. we are all just “workers” in God’s field. Some may plant and some may water, but it is “God who cause the growth” (3:7).
Unfortunately, the cult of personality didn’t end with the first century church. Power, fame, and influence are big values in our culture today, and they slip easy into the church. Sometimes it’s a pastor who is secretly (or not so secretly) set on becoming more popular than Jesus. Sometimes it’s an up-in-coming staff member or lay leader who wants to make a name for him or her self. Sometimes it’s a long-time member who enjoys exerting their influence and control. Whatever form it takes, this passage warns us that the end result of the cult of personality is division, and ultimately distraction.
Here are some questions to help you stamp this cult out in your church or organization:
Is the conflict in your church or organization issue based or personality based? If it is personality based, what are people doing to create the problem? Are you part of the problem?
How can you humbly engage with the divided parties and turn their attention back to God and His mission?