In my last blog, I looked at what attributes a church needed to be its best. My last point was that all departments in a church should be on the same page, working to fulfill the Great Commission. I would like to look deeper at the subject of church unity.
Disunity in the Church has been with us since the dawn of the Church age. Let’s look at the parallels between conflict in the book of Acts and conflict today.
Acts 6-Grecians and Hebrews about ministering to widows. The apostles were busy in the early church spreading the gospel and knew that declaring the truth of Jesus was to be their primary mission. Being Hebrew, they would be in closer proximity to the Hebrew widows to take care of them. This angered the Grecians (believers of non-Hebrew descent). Grecian widows were neglected. The apostles were led to make the proper decision: empowering those around them with the gifts of administration and hospitality to do the work of the ministry. This was somewhat of a risk. They let go of some leadership power to men who weren’t one of the twelve. They set guidelines but it still was something out of their control. Are we willing to empower leaders with the risk that the job won’t be done exactly the way we would have done it? Look at some of the names: Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas. These were Greeks; are we willing to look beyond our comfort zone and train those of different ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds? If we are willing to change, we will get the result of the early church: a fully focused preaching team and new opportunities for social ministry that multiply the church.
Acts 11: Does a Christian need to follow all the Jewish law? Certain Jewish Christians were upset that Peter, a devout Jew, was ministering in the house of Gentiles. Peter had to explain to them that God spoke to him in a new way. Before his visit to Cornelius, the apostles were only witnessing in their travels to Jewish people. Peter emphasized something wonderful: the Gospel is for all the world. God wants us to reach everyone; this will take hundreds of thousands of different kinds of ministries, many of which, while maintaining biblical soundness, will stretch us to accept methods that are anything by orthodox. Will be willing to take on staff or launch lay ministers to these uncharted waters or will we create rules that stifle God’s creativity?
Acts 15: Legalism, Part II. Again we see those who would add unneeded laws to the gospel of grace getting upset with those preaching to the Gentiles. This time, the question is not should we preach to the Gentiles as much as how and what should we preach to the Gentiles. In the modern day, this corresponds to this question: how much of what we do is based on traditions of man versus the Word of God and the Spirit’s leading? We must always be careful not to focus on minor theological points to the damage of our gospel witness.
Acts 15: Barnabas and Paul disagree over Mark. This type of disagreement is at the heart of much of our disunity. How do we handle disagreement? Do we see Paul going on his next trip badmouthing Barnabas? No, we see a new form of ministry rise up. In fact, we see two ministries, one of Paul and Silas and one of Barnabas and Mark. Barnabas made a large impact on Cyprus, his native land. Here we see home and foreign missions in action, side by side. So sometimes in ministry, it’s not either or; it’s both.
So in conclusion, above all, remember that to be fully effective in fulfilling the Great Commission, we must exemplify the love of Christ in our actions and not allow petty disagreements to hinder our effectiveness in ministry. Value each ministry yet know what you are called to. Be willing to think outside the box and turn the world upside down for Christ