Protecting Our Church
I want to get very practical with all of you today. I want to talk about something that is very important to the heart of God and that is unity. Unity is absolutely essential to reach any kind of achievement. It’s needed in families. To have a happy family, you have to have unity there. It’s needed in business. Employees must learn to get along. It’s needed in government in order for the government to get anything done. Our government can be brought to a standstill whenever the different parties cannot get along. On a sporting team, players have to be unified in order to win and just putting men and women in the same jersey doesn’t automatically make them a team. But especially in the church, there must be unity for God to be able to work and for the church to become all that God wants it to be.
Unity Is The Key In Reaching The Unchurched
Unity is a key theme in the bible. The bible talks more about unity than it does heaven and hell. It is up to every member to help protect the church’s unity. Churches are made up of people and believe it or not there are no perfect people. So people get into conflict with each other therefore we need to learn how to deal with it.
First of all let me talk to you about the importance of unity in the church.
Jesus prayed for it. John 17:20-
The world will be won to Christ when the church is one. It is key to reaching the unchurched. Remember, the church is a fellowship. Fellowship is not something we do but something we are. Acts 2:42 "They continued steadily learning the teachings of the apostles and joined in the fellowship." Since the church is a fellowship if you destroy the unity and harmony of the church you destroy the church.
We are commanded to make unity the top priority. Ephesians 4:3 "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bonds of peace." One of your primary jobs as a member of a church is not only to be involved in ministry but also promote peace. Whatever it takes!
Any attitude that causes disunity is sin. We need to make sure we are regularly checking our attitudes.
Unity is a witness to the world. John 13:34-
If you create a loving community, first time seekers will sniff it and say "I want in.
The neat thing is that we don’t all have to be alike to maintain unity. We can be from different backgrounds ethnically, vocationally, and still walk arm and arm. We don’t have to all come out of the same mold. What draws us together is our common love for Jesus Christ.
God blesses the unified church. Acts 2:46-
Some people leave because of illness. In a church of any size there will be people who will get sick and will not be able to come to church. We need to be ready as a church to take the church to them. Matthew 25 Jesus says, "I was sick and you visited me." We need to be ready to do that.
Some people leave because of job transfers. In Acts 18:1-
A third reason people leave is fear of accountability. Some people hop from church to church because they are afraid of having to be held accountable for their lifestyle. People like that love to attend large churches to hide from Jesus behind the church.
A fourth reason is worldliness. People leave the church because of personal worldliness. Another name for this is "backslide." It’s a very common reason.
Divisiveness. People leave the church when they disagree on different things. We can’t expect people to have 100% agreement in the church. It’s silly to expect that. Churches have actually split over deciding the color of the carpet for their building! Even great Christians like Paul and Barnabas disagreed. We can walk arm and arm with each other without seeing eye to eye. We don’t have to agree on everything. Romans 16:17 says "I urge you bretheren note those who cause division and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you learned and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ but by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple." Satan will use whatever means he can to break up the church. We need to be ready.
Another reason is unresolved personal conflict. This could very well be the number one reason why a lot of people leave the church. They just don’t get along with somebody. Now, let me ask you something. In your family do you have problems? Disagreements? Yes you do. Since the church is a family WE WILL HAVE DISAGREEMENTS AND PROBLEMS. I think people need to learn how to handle conflicts. Too many people want to divorce their church. It’s the easier thing to do. But they go to another church and find out it’s not perfect either. You’re never going to find the perfect church here on this imperfect earth!
The happiest reason people leave the church is when they’re sent out to minister. It’s a great reason. Every church should be sending people all over the world spreading the gospel. The church shouldn’t be judged by how many people are sitting in the seats but by how many we are sending out into the hedges and the highways.
Keeping these things in mind, now let’s look at five ways to maintain unity in the church, what you can do as a member and leader at your local church.
1. Maintain An Attitude of Acceptance
Romans 14 is a classic passage on accepting other believers in the family of God. Verse 1 says "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters." I would encourage you to read this entire chapter. What you will find as you read this is Paul saying don’t major on the minors. We need to accept people where they are and not where we want them to be. We don’t insist that everybody agree on every minor detail. There will always be "disputable" matters so we need to maintain an attitude of acceptance. Aren’t you glad we’re not all alike? God loves variety. So, we can agree to disagree on some issues. If it is an essential matter then we will need to come up with a resolution.
2. Focus On Our Common Purpose Together As A Church
1 Corinthians 1:10 says "Let there be real harmony among you so there won’t be any split in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind united in thought and purpose." That is what it is to produce unity in the church; a common purpose. That’s why we want every prospective member to go through our new members class. We want you to know up front where we are headed as a church. We have a common purpose. We are intentionally trying to reach the lost in our community. But we are doing it in a different way than a lot of other churches are in this community. From the kind of music we play to the kinds of things I preach on…it’s all because of our purpose. We need to understand too that our church is not going to be for everyone. But we are committed to helping whoever we reach find some bible believing church to belong to even if it is not ours.
3. Control Your Tongue
Refuse to gossip. You want to know how to cause major problems in a church (or family)? Gossip. It’s like an uncontrollable wildfire. So, when someone comes to you; you need to have in the back of your mind a filter, a grid, and when someone shares something with you; you need to quickly ask yourself, "is this a legitimate concern? If it is, who do I direct them to? And if it is gossip just say, "Stop." I’m not going to listen to that. The bible says gossip is sin and when you listen to it you become partner in it. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs."
What is gossip? Gossip is when you’re sharing a problem or criticism with someone who is neither part of the problem or part of the solution. The bible says that you and we need to control our tongues. It’s a mark of real maturity. A gossip is purely immature.
4. Support The Pastors And Leaders
Hebrews 13:17 "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy not a burden for that would be no advantage to you." This verse is a very scary verse for me. Not the obey leaders part but the part that says I will be held accountable for you. I will stand before God one day and give an account for how I watched over your souls. The other leaders of this church are going to be accountable for the direction of this church.
With accountability comes authority. God has given some authority to pastors and leaders to make decisions, to lead the direction of the church. But with the authority comes the accountability one day. I covet your prayers. The other leaders covet your prayers. If you are leading a ministry you are going to be held accountable.
5. Practice God’s Method of Conflict Resolution
Matthew 18:15 gives us the proper procedure in handling conflict. You need to know where this passage is. As a matter of fact you need to memorize these verses. God has a way he wants us to handle conflict. "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his faults just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you’ve won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector."
Sometimes people will come to me or maybe people have come to you and say, "I have a problem with so and so." You and I need to say, "have you talked to them." "I will be happy to talk to you after you’ve talked to them first." We need to learn to go directly to the person we have a problem with. If that doesn’t work take one or two others along. If they still don’t repent then we bring it up to the entire congregation. After that doesn’t work we treat him as an unchurched person. How do you treat an unchurched person? You love them! But they shouldn’t have leadership responsibilities. They’ll need to be in the word.
I realize that I have gone through an awful lot of information. But this is very important stuff for us to get a handle on as a church. It’s not a matter of if problems happen but when. When they do come we need to be ready to respond in a Christ-
God Bless You!
God Bless Us All!