One of the greatest of tragedies in the life of a church is that of needless strife and division. No one is left untouched. People who were beginning to come to church, become harder to reach with the Gospel. Immature Christians grow cynical and fall away. The Church often develops a reputation in the community that is difficult to live down, sometimes for a generation or more. Church splits, that come about as the result of sin, cause untold damage to the cause of Christ. It's true that God in His sovereignty and grace can take any bad situation and bring good out of it.
It is one thing to divide and separate ourselves from a church that is set on a course of false doctrine. When the Doctrine of Christ or the issue of the Inspiration of the Bible is at stake and there is no way to change the position of the church; the Christian has no choice but to part company with the apostates.
II Corinthians 6:14-18 II John 7-11.
However, in nearly every other situation, division is the result of carnality and pride. Proverbs 13:10 bluntly states, "ONLY by PRIDE cometh contention." Paul sent his Epistle of I Corinthians to the carnal church at Corinth to deal with the pride and division that was destroying them.
The responsibility to protect from division rests primarily with the pastor. The pastor MUST feed the flock and build them up. In Ephesians 4 Paul writes the church about their responsibility to guard well the unity that the Holy Spirit gives them. In that chapter the emphasis is again put on the pastor's work of feeding and caring for the flock entrusted to him. Such efforts result in a beautiful, peaceful church increasingly growing into the very likeness of Christ.
Like the Good Shepherd in John 10, the true pastor cares for the feeding and the protection of his flock. It is always uppermost in his mind and nothing is more important for it brings glory to God.
On the other hand, the hireling of John 10 has no concern for the flock whatsoever. To him his church is just a stepping stone to bigger opportunities. He cares only for himself and what he can gain from his flock. When he had gotten what he wants, he leaves, taking whatever and whoever he can with him.
Trouble-makers are not hard for spiritually-minded Christians to spot. Through their smooth talking and superficial piety, they don't hesitate to divide Christians from one another.
Just as surely as sheep grow wool, sheep are followers. No matter what their position in the business world; when it comes to the church, sheep tend to follow. If they don't follow their pastor, someone else will appear for them to follow. That's why Paul in Acts 20:29-30 warns the Ephesian church in his farewell address to them. Every true pastor should be able to say with Paul in I Corinthians 4:16 "Be ye followers of me." But that leadership must not be coerced or forced. It must be exercised by our example. I Peter 5:2-3
Remember, the true shepherd loves his flock and guards them from division and strife. The false shepherd doesn't care about unity. His only concern is that he has his way and he WILL have it at all costs, no matter what damage he does to the flock.
Early in my ministry I pastored two small country churches several miles apart, Mt. Hermon and Mt. Zion. I have an idea that the experience must be a little like being the husband of two wives at the same time. Psalm 133 became very meaningful to me at that time. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard , even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments. As the dew of Hermon and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore."