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First Baptist Church
Treasuring God, Loving People

Church Unity

by Pastor Tim, Pastor of Discipleship

We are living in times when evil is abounding. Most of us agree with this. What we can’t all agree on what is the evil. Here are some popular candidates: minorities or majorities; Democrats or Republicans; protestors or police; the people or the government; Biden or Trump; Covid-19 or the government; people and churches who don’t comply with health mandates or people and churches that do comply.

Many Christian pastors around the country are concerned that these disagreements are affecting the unity and brotherhood of believers in their local churches. Your First Baptist pastors are concerned as well. The church ought to care about evil and injustice. But as we step into these issues, the Bible would warn us of pitfalls. Here are four pitfalls that the Bible would call out.

PITFALL 1:  WE ADOPT THE SECULAR VIEWPOINT OF THE ISSUE

 Positions on these issues have significant secular (worldly) leadership. And the secular forces behind these positions have always been pleased to pull in the support of the church for their cause. The church ought to care about righteousness on earth and so secular concerns may overlap church concerns. But the overlap isn’t full. Some areas where the secular and biblical approach to the same issue differ are:

  • The world doesn’t share with the church the assumption that evil in the world is fueled by an evil in the spiritual realm, “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 2:1
  • The world doesn’t share with the church the assumption that “there is none who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:1
  • The world doesn’t share with the church the assumption that the only way to successfully win the battle over worldly evil is to apply the weapons given by God rather than the weapons of this world, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4
  • The world doesn’t share with the church the assumption that “all will be over” if this issue isn’t decided correctly, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” says the Lord. Isaiah 46:10

ASK YOURSEL“Where am I adopting the assumptions of the world
rather than the Bible as I think about these important current issues?”

PITFALL 2:  WE JUDGE OTHER CHRISTIAN BROTHERS & SISTERS TOO QUICKLY & TOO HARSHLY

 The secular culture prides itself on quick and confident assessments, especially of people outside of our “camp.” And we in the church are easily pulled into doing the same thing. So, when someone uses a particular word or phrase, we interpret it as a signal that they are “one of them.” Or if someone wears a mask or doesn’t, we assume we know what they must believe about Covid.  How should we relate to brothers and sisters who we might disagree with?

  • “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 When we are quick and harsh to judge our brothers and sisters, let’s tell ourselves that we have left the way of Christ have adopted the spirit of the age.
  • “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

ASK YOURSEL“As I think and talk about others in the church and their views on these current issues, am I gentle, patient, sympathetic, is my mind humble?”

PITFALL 3:  WE SEE GOD’S WORD & THE GOSPEL AS LESS RELEVANT TO THE MAJOR ISSUES IN LIFE THAN THE LATEST NEWS, ONLINE POSTS, ETC

Wherever you get your news, have you noticed that the headlines are written like “this is a disaster” … every … single … day? Whether you are getting your news on the TV or on the Internet, know that the organization supplying this to you is writing for their benefit more than yours. And their benefit it to sell your attention to advertisers. This is as true on Instagram as it is on TV.  Disasters sell. The news must be big or you won’t pay attention. This information is presented to us in a way that we are compelled to see it as the most important thing I must know. Brothers and sisters, the most important thing for you to know every day is what God says in his Word. This “news” is always reliable and always relevant. Satan is happy to see you believe otherwise and does his best to do so.

ASK YOURSEL“Am I seeing God’s word and his Gospel as more helpful
and relevant than the latest news, post, email, text?”

PITFALL 4:  WE SEE PARTICIPATION IN WORSHIP, SERVICE, & PEOPLE CARE
IN THE LOCAL CHURCH AS OPTIONAL

The New Testament Greek word that we translate “church,” means assembly. God’s normal plan is for his church to physically assemble. Both the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are reserved for the gathering of the local church.  “When you come together” is written 5 times in 1 Corinthians 11.

God’s plan for his people is that they live out their Christianity in the context of a particular local church, not just live it out in the abstract of the universal church. The New Testament contains letters to churches with specific instructions: love one another, bear with one another, live in harmony with one another, build up one another, … Who is meant by “another?” Others in your church. I’m so much more encouraged by the brothers and sisters I can see and hear. The best “one-another’ing” is done in person. We can bless far more brothers on a Sunday morning gathering than at home by ourselves.

Covid has kept many of us away from the FBC Sunday gathering over the past 7 months. What does God say about this? God’s providence has always kept some of his church away from the assembly: sickness, advanced old age, accident, even pandemics. But it ought to be God’s providence, not merely our providence that keeps us away. If we are staying away because of our preference, God would say to us:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

This verse says that the point of our meeting together (physically) is to stir up one another to love and good works, and that Christians ought not neglect this. If you are staying away from FBC because you are concerned you might spread or contract the virus or be quarantined, we consider this God’s providence keeping you away.

ASK YOURSEL“Am I staying away from the church’s gathering because I’m only weakly and unbiblically valuing of the physical gathering?”

In summary, evil is abounding in our world. But it is also abounding in us. Let’s repent of the ways we’ve harmed the unity of our church. Let’s fight against our temptation to adopt secular assumptions and attitudes as we fight for what is right. Let’s renew our looking to God’s word and worship with his people as the most relevant and most important part of living Christianly in our day.