|Book: Creating a Secure Church: BOOK TWO|
Part 1 : Objectives & Obstacles
Part 2 : Secure in Relationships
Part 3 : Secure in Ministry
Part 4 : When Things go Wrong
Part 5 : Concluding Thoughts
Chapter 5: Togetherness and Unity
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have
against one another”
As we continue to think about this ‘family of God', the church, let's first of all remind ourselves of the key things we considered in the last two chapters:
Some of the things above are things we need to teach and work at, so let's see if we can reinforce those things and provide additional motivation to go for them.
In case you are thinking that this book is all very inward looking, please look at the Contents page again and rest in the fact of what we have hinted at once already, that establishing relationships properly in the church opens the way for the church to be what Jesus has designed it to be – a light to the world.
5.1 New Testament Togetherness
Let's consider some of the challenges of the New Testament that indicate that the Christian life is all about corporate living, words that indicate that we can only be fulfilled in church life where two or more people are relating together:
Why did the writers of the various epistles write these words? Because they knew that we don't naturally do these things, and so we need encouraging to do them. In the secure church we make these things a priority.
How many words are there in the New Testament about reading the Bible, or say evangelising the world? Some, but no where near as many as the exhortations to get on with one another in the Church, and yet, so often, we make this such a low priority.
Escaping from People?
It might be nice to think that we can be a Christian all alone but the truth of the matter is that God uses people to change us and make us more like Him. At various times in history Christian people have tried to avoid people, ostensibly in the name of spirituality. Through monasticism the desert fathers sought to escape the contamination of other people by going and living alone, yet many missed the truth that being changed into the likeness of Christ comes not from escaping the world but living in the world (as Christ did) and allowing the world to drive you into the arms of the Father where change takes place.
We seek to flee from people that we find difficult, whereas God wants to use them to bring us to the end of ourselves and so rely on Him for grace to cope with them. In that we become more and more like Jesus.
Deception of Church Life
One of the greatest dangers of modern church life is the deception that says everything is fine, when in fact the church is full of hurting, isolated people, who long to touch the reality of Jesus' love. While we focus more on meetings or activities to the detriment of the relationships of the church, we are in deception. When we allow a superficial church life that does not build real relationships, or we allow divisions between us, we are falling short of Jesus' purposes for us and we are in deception. We need people, we need people who are different from us, because they are part of God's plan to change us to be more like Him.
Storing up Further Problems
One of the problems is that when we stand aloof from ‘difficult people' we are actually pushing them out into a place of further vulnerability to the enemy where they become more open to his attacks.
When we are isolated we can experience:
The eventual outcome is that we become an even bigger problem and then a drain on the resources of the church as they struggle to cope with our greater upsetting impact.
5.2 The Potential of Togetherness
When we work to overcome our desire to flee our ‘difficult people' we find the exact opposite effects happening:
On the Defence
If we are one of those ‘difficult people', people who are different because they are still working out issues in their lives (does that miss anybody out?), if we are ignored, rejected or isolated, the following are common thoughts that can go through our minds:
These are defensive, destructive words, words that come in isolation and words that cause isolation.
Words of Encouragement
In the secure church, however, we can hear the following words:
These are words that build, support, encourage and open up hurting people.
5.3 A Question of Immaturity
Living with Immaturity
In an ordinary family, what are the sorts of things that go on? Among the children there is often rivalry, jealousy, an inability to share, protectiveness, fighting and arguing. Why does this happen? Well, the first obvious answer is because they are sinners and this is the Sin in them being expressed, their godless selfishness coming out. But there is another reason. Very simply they are immature and insecure and therefore they tend to be selfish, attention seeking, unsure of their place in the family.
That's just how it is in the family of God. We are a bunch of redeemed sinners and, yes, the power of Sin has been broken so that we no longer keep on having to sin, but because of our immaturity we still find some of these things creeping out.
It's worth noting at this point that although this book is setting a goal to be achieved, at any point in our church history, all of the signs of immaturity will be there in the church because we are growing and many have not achieved anything that could remotely be called maturity. So here's yet a further reason to work for this ‘secure church' – to achieve a place where people can be immature and are still loved!
Signs of Immaturity
Here are some of the things that you've probably spotted in other people, things that quite possibly annoy you. They are simply signs of that person's immaturity.
Colin is constantly talking about himself. In any and every conversation he's talking about himself. The fact that the person before him is in great need completely escapes him. He's just got his own life in mind. He needs to talk about himself; he's got no other thing to talk about in which he's confident. People find him really trying but the truth is that he's simply immature. He needs accepting and loving into maturity, so he can come to a place of peace and confidence about himself so he can enter into the joy of listening to others.
2. Emotional Swings
Diane is a lady who is constantly up and down. This has nothing to do with her physical state; it's just that she listens to the enemy too much. First of all she listens to the preacher and is buoyed up by the truth - and everything is wonderful. Next day she's in the rough and tumble of working life and before she knows where she is, someone says something unpleasant about her work and she's on an emotional downward spiral. She hasn't learned to discern the truth, take every thought captive and reject lies. To many other people she's someone to be avoided. They can't cope with her gushing enthusiastic faith one day and then wails of anguish and woe the next day. The truth is that she's simply immature. She needs accepting and loving into maturity where she can learn to recognise the origins of some of her thoughts, and receive help and encouragement to deal with them properly.
3. Gives up too easily
Eric has yet to learn what it means to persevere. Every New Year he makes a new set of resolutions but within the week they are gone. He hears a teacher challenging his people to read the Bible more so he sets himself to read through the Bible systematically. He gives up at Genesis 12! He determines to pray every morning but doesn't realise that late nights don't help. Endurance is not a feature of his life. To the leaders within the church, Eric is a total frustration, and the temptation to give up on him is so strong, but the truth is he's simply immature. He needs accepting and loving into maturity, where he can learn to receive help to persevere.
4. Prolonged Offence
Fiona speaks out of turn and offends another. She knows she's done wrong but it takes a week for her to say sorry. She waits until she can't stand it any longer. People all over the church know that she's volatile and can say offending words. It's easier to avoid her. Oh yes, she'll eventually come round and apologise, but it seems to take so long. The truth is that it's simply that she's immature. She needs accepting and loving into maturity, so that she can quickly come to a place of seeking forgiveness from others that she has offended, and even better come to a place of confidence and wholeness where she isn't constantly offending people.
5. Prolonged Guilt
George sins, is aware of it and mopes around feeling a failure for the next week. Eventually he asks God's forgiveness, having first been through a long phase of trying to appease God by being spiritual! Most people find him a nuisance. When he's down it's like he's a little black cloud who seems to dampen the whole atmosphere with his gloom laden guilt. People are generally glad when he's not around but it's simply that he immature. He needs accepting and loving into maturity, where he can learn to take and hold the truth and be set free from long term guilt.
6. Must look good
Hilary is the most common of our immature characters, the person who pops up in this book most often in one form or another. Hilary feels she's got to look good so when anyone asks how she is, it's always “Fine!” Hilary is a faith person. People who are godly never feel down, they're always triumphant, never focusing upon themselves! Hilary hasn't realised that being godly means living in truth, and truth includes truth about herself. Inside she's not happy but she'll never let you know about it. Yet, tragically, in the lives of people like Hilary, there so often comes an explosion that can result in leaving church or even abandoning the faith. The truth is she's simply immature. She needs accepting and loving into maturity where she can face the reality of what she's really like and then go on to something better.
So what's the Point?
The point is that each of these people is less than perfect, and our temptation is to hold them at arm's length. Instead they need our love and total acceptance. We don't blame a four year old child for childish behaviour; we expect it because they are immature. They need to learn, they need to grow up, but that's going to take time. So why do we struggle with people in our congregation who are just the same. They are immature, they need to learn, they need to grow up, but it's going to take time, patience and loving acceptance!
We'll come across this again and again as we go on through this section on the practicalities of creating a secure church. We'll see it in ministry and we'll see it in our general life together as ‘church'. The fact is all our people are at different stages of spiritual growth and we've got to love and accept one another, just where we are.
We need, if we are leaders, to be teaching these things constantly. We need reminding we are all sinners, falling short of God's perfection. We need reminding that He accepts us as we are and we are to accept one another in this same way. We need reminding that His grace is there for us to love and accept one another. We need, if we are the congregation of God's people, to be looking around us and thinking, “How can I bless this person?” instead of “What a strange person! I wish they were more like me!”
Why not take the following verses from the list earlier in the chapter and see how you can apply them in respect of some of those people around you that you don't find easy:
5.4 And So?
So, let's ask ourselves some very practical questions based on the things we've observed above:
What is my personal feeling about ‘people' in church?
How can I approach and build relationships with others who
What changes does Jesus want to bring about in me in respect of the way I view other people?
What things can I DO to bless other people and help them feel loved and accepted?
Again, these are nuts and bolts questions for relationships within the church. We may have thought we were being spiritual when we've been focusing on all the other “big issues” of the church, but if we have failed to face and work through these questions, we have be less than the people God wants us to be!
These are not easy things to honestly work through. Time and again we'll be tempted to give up working on relationships. Time and time again we'll have to go back to God for grace, but somehow we MUST do it.