My church, your church, our Church
In keeping with the Rally to Restore Unity this week, I am looking at one area that causes division: ministry.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Vibrant and Dead
There are a lot of churches around that cater to something specific. This church offers a homeless ministry. That church has a car repair club. This other church reaches out to abused women and children. That other church has a great addiction recovery program. This church works with that church to reach out to the local prisons.
Everybody does a lot of great things.
The problem comes in that many of these churches offer these great ministries and programs … exclusively. Then they look down on other churches for not doing the same thing.
“You don’t help the homeless! Jesus told us to!” “How come you are not getting into the prisons?! Jesus said visiting those in prison is visiting Him!” “Why are you not reaching out to these people with these problems!”
It is almost a heresy to not do what “my church” does. Each church may have a great specialty, but that specialty often becomes “this is the way church is supposed to be done, and you are doing it wrong.”
I am not saying these churches or these people are bad. Quite the contrary. They are meeting a need that has not been adequately met in their area. GREAT! The problem comes in when our focus is on the ministry more than unity within the Church. The problem comes in when our focus is more on our work than on our relationships. The problem comes in when our focus is on how we are serving more than on our Lord Jesus Christ.
Unity through Difference
I am going to make a suggestion. If you are involved in a ministry, make sure you are in a church that offers other ministries different from your own. If you work with the homeless, make sure your church offers a ministry in recovery. If you work in a ministry of recovery, make sure your church offers a ministry that works with divorcees. If you work in a ministry that works with divorcees, make sure your church offers a healthy children’s ministry.
All of these are suggestions, not definite ideas. I was a part of a church (I still think of it as home, actually) which had a great youth ministry, offered several outreach opportunities throughout the year, supported several missionaries, had some men who offered their car mechanic specialties to those who needed it, and many classes to grow in understanding of the Bible and our Lord. They did not have a college ministry, and this is in a town with two major universities, some community colleges, and several satellite campuses and other colleges. We ended up plugging in with another church’s college ministry. It was working and vibrant, had access to resources we did not, and was already in with the colleges.
The point is we saw needs. We saw ways to meet those needs. We did not start new churches and/or condemn others for not doing anything. We worked together, we met the needs. We found ways to get past ourselves and doctrine to unite.
Like Paul said in Romans (and as it is said in many places in the New Testament) we belong to each other in Christ and each have gifts that benefit all. Our beliefs may not always line up. Our ideas of ministry may not always be the same. Together we can do more than apart. At the very least, make sure you know people from other churches and ministries. It will help you, your church, and the Body of Christ.
Let us get over ourselves and let Christ reign.