When “Parting Ways” Is the Way to Go

September 2, 2019

Acts 15:36-41 (NIV)

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.


Here are three simple observations from today’s text:

  1. The best predictor of future performance is past performance.

You know the old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Paul was not willing to take the chance on John Mark. He didn’t think it wise. We’re talking about the apostolic big leagues here; not whether John Mark is going to show up for ushering duty on Sunday.

  1. Sincere followers of Jesus can have sharp disagreements.

One does not have to be right and the other wrong. It is not the end of the world, and it is certainly not the end of the Church. Paul was well within his apostolic authority to make this call. The ever-encouraging Barnabas was also within his appropriate authority to want to give John Mark another shot.

  1. Followers of Jesus who sincerely disagree can actually part ways. Sometimes it just can’t be worked out. We can agree to disagree, go our separate ways and still actually love each other. It happens all the time.

It’s refreshing to see people within a community who can’t come to agreement decide to call it what it is and part ways. The counterfeit unity that comes from the toxic mixture of mushy sentimentality and passive aggressive behavior hurts the witness of the Church far more than honest division.

It’s one of the things I appreciate about the Baptists. When their churches can’t come to agreement, they find a way to declare a new church plant. One group goes to Cyprus and the other heads for Syria. The people grieve. The community heals, and the gospel wins.

Am I missing something here?




Have you ever witnessed a parting of ways like the one described in today’s text? Did they do it well? Things turn out OK?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

7 Responses

  1. Your right, they both had the right to disagree and go there separate ways. But this is an example of two people, not hole churches. Everyone seems to think there are only two option in life. Agree to disagree or I don’t agree with you so your an idiot and I can’t like you. I don’t believe either way advances the cause of Christ or our country. I see this between conservative and progressive Christians, and I see it between Republicans and Democrats. There is a third option. Respect and love each other. Listen and continue to learn from each others point of view, but continue to stay together.
    “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

  2. While I have wonderful several friends who are in the Anglican Church, I’m glad to have attended a basically Methodist seminary (ATS) and am part of the Free Methodist Church which incidentally is 154 years old, a second generation branch from the Anglicans.

  3. Great post. I’d add one thought; later, in prison, Paul is calling on Timothy for a personal favor, and says, “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11). Somewhere along the way, John Mark redeemed himself and Paul was a big enough man to see it and ask specifically for him to be brought. I agree, sometimes we have to part ways, but we also always keep our eyes and hearts open for a change, a turn for the better, and we don’t let our pride stop us from seeking them out.

  4. In reference to the criteria expressed by the first respondent: “There is a third option. Respect and love each other. Listen and continue to learn from each others point of view, but continue to stay together.”

    I very much agree with what you say, but it has to be a two way street. And in my experience it is not.

    I experienced the absence of it at my local church when a new pastor arrived who knew what needed to change and some agreed with him; woe to us that did not agree and/or were rushed in our acceptance of his understanding of what needed to change. It has been over 6 years and three pastors since he left and that experience is part of what has dwindled my participation at church to a back pew during worship because the message I received was all I was needed for was a head count in the pew and some money in the plate. Later, I came to an understanding of what he thought he was trying to do but it was such a bad experience, it did not help.

    As to what is happening at the denominational level: I have spent a fair amount of time cruising the web to get a grasp of the homosexuality argument at the denominational level. Liberal/progressives are not being either loving or respectful to the conservatives; including at least two liberal/progressive bishops. They are determined to change the wording in the Discipline regardless of the consequences; there is very much an attitude of we have the right answer, you do not. Now compare that to the local PFLAG chapter : they advertise there are meetings but do not publicize time or place; recently they publicly stated that they realize this community (I live in a town of 20,000 in south Texas) is not ready for what they are proposing. I would have to say PFLAG is more compassionate than the liberals within the church and are smarter in how to bring about lasting change.

    A while back the Daily Text dealt with the difference between the power of love vs the power of power for its own sake. I have experienced both–love, compassion, respect, really has the greater transforming power.

  5. JD,

    I like this, and I agree. However, I think it’s important to mention that getting to that space where we realize that we’re at an impasse is a process. Sometimes when I feel frustrated with my church community and the leadership of which I am a part, I have the temptation to just leave and use this “agree to disagree” as an excuse. The problem therein, though, is that I’m not usually willing to check my own heart to see if I’m wrong and to see if leaving is something that the Holy Spirit is actually prompting us to do.
    We have left two churches here in town, but it was only after the process of prayer, discernment, and discussion with trusted others that we decided that we couldn’t come to an agreement with the leadership of either of those churches. We also went through a similar process when a community that we started here in town realized that it’s expiration date was overdue.
    Good words. I appreciate them. Keep going…

  6. you lost me at the Baptist church split thing. not even close to applying what happened between Paul and Barnabus. Plus we know the three eventually reconciled.

    That whole prayer Jesus prayed about being One? I think that’s pretty important. That whole “reconcile before going to court thing?” (don’t let the public see your disunity) Good stuff too. Church splits over non-essentials is NOT God’s will. Can God make good out of it? obvioulsy. Will differences happen? Hey that was your point. Sharp disagreement. Not doctrinal feud.

  7. Question :what do u do when someone treats you like your are not blood related and after 30 years she tells you that u don’t belong to the family ?Yet she is a Christian. I tried to bridge the gap between her and myself but it didn’t work.

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