As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6
Our job is simple; we are to seize the opportunities Christ has for us and not allow them to be forgotten or lost to our misdirected ways. We are to know Christ and connect with others in our church so the person and work of Christ is known by others! We are to proclaim the Gospel of God, who became flesh to be one of us, and to announce how and what Christ taught. We are to make known how our Lord died and rose again, how He saved us from our sins-from ourselves, and that there is only one way out and Christ is that way. Once we know this and internalize what it really means to the point of "existential transformation," the complete change to the very core of who we are as a person, which is the basis for our personality and actions, will come. We are no longer of the world so we do not need to behave worse than the world. We become mirrors of the character of Christ, and we walk in that character with love and care. Let us embrace and lift up the church as it was meant and called to do - seize the day - seize His opportunities!
In Ephesians 4, the veracity of the mission of who we are to be as a Church is summarized in a couple of sentences. Jesus is the voice, He is the Power, He is the reason, and we are the receptors to Him. The question is not if we hear the call, for I believe we all do as Christians; rather, it is whether we will follow and obey Him. All too often, in my experiences as a pastor, I have observed that few will actually follow¾even those in church leadership. Many of my colleagues are not in the habit of following Him. We generally like to lead. We like to make our own way in life, and we take this nonsensical view into the pulpits and the counsel rooms and seek to direct ourselves and others by our way. Jesus is still there calling us, but instead, we jam His call with what we think is important in life; but, that ends up being mainly the noise of our own will. We block His call with our ways, ideas, and plans so that what gets done in many of our churches is the work of the flesh, the deeds of our sinful nature, while the work and call He gives goes unmet and un-followed. Then, we wonder why our lives are empty and our churches vacant.Church Problems are Timeless
And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:15
For nearly 2,000 years, the Church has been an institution riddled with conflict and problems. For the reason why the Epistles where written, to respond to the problems and turn them into opportunities. This is also the reason why the Epistles need to be read and applied, such as Ephesians 4. It is the duty of Christian leadership to define these problems, whether they come from hurts and feelings, or rules and policies, or even perceived principles. Then, those leaders, through prayer and Scripture, can formulate the goals and objectives for dealing with these issues. We must have a plan in place for a detector to determine the strife before it gets out of hand, and a policy and methodology for treating it-all in an atmosphere of care and love. The church must purge, erase, or whatever it takes to get rid of any semblance of a "we've always done it this way" attitude, because when we have this mindset, it will disable our having any serious insight into the problems and frustrations with which the church deals.
Once we purge the thinking that blocks our effectiveness in being God's child, then He can use us in an improved and more profound way. Once this happens, we can formulate goals and objectives essential to the advancement of Christ's Kingdom. The right decisions will be based on God's Will because we are reading the Scriptures and are steeped in prayer. Christ can use us to take the necessary actions to convince people of their wrong thinking, evil scheming, and plotting. Yes, there will be growing pains and frustrations because most people do not like change, even the change that Christ calls them to, and this seems to cause rebellion against God and mostly from godly people. We need to focus on the results of a church filled with Christ's presence because we invited Him into "our place" with love, care, and worship-a place where evil is rooted out and the purpose of the church can be revealed and unfolded. Then, we will become the body of Christ, fully effective and able to be used by Him to further His Kingdom.
What really complicates things is that most people are not even aware of the problems they bring in or the conflict that is caused by wrong attitudes, actions, and nitpicking. They may have learned how to accept and live with it, or they may not admit to it at all. Out of these struggles and conflicts come the barriers to the advancement of God's kingdom. Psychologists tell us that people cannot always verbalize their pain and feelings. They may not be willing to seek out the help they need. If you do any kind of marriage counseling, you know this very well. The result of strife unmentioned is that the person leaves the church because the church has failed to meet the deeper needs of the individual and/or family. We fail to notice or just choose not to, resulting in our ignoring the person's problem. We fail to see the person as Christ does. Thus, real effective ministry does not happen as it should.
Our true call is to rise to the occasion as a unified force of bettering our behaviors and bettering the way we engage society. A lot of the magazine articles and books on this subject are focused on the change of paradigms-the change of vision and ways that we "do church," as well as the methods of worship and outreach. I do agree with this as long it does not compromise the Word of the Lord and mission of the church. However, the bigger problem is not the music choice or color of the carpet or signs or parking. It's not about whether we call the front part of the church a narthex, foyer, lobby, or entrée way or "that space we clog up." It's about us as human beings, created by God, saved by Christ, knowing Him and connecting with one another and making Him known. We must trade in our misdirected ways of social interaction, with the gratitude of what Christ has done, so that we reciprocate with our actions and deeds to one another and the world around us, mirroring the person and work of Christ!
"I'd join the movement if there was one I could believe in, I'd take bread and wine if there was a church I could receive in." (U2 Acrobat)
Our job as the Church is not just its defense, but its reform. Just as Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the Whittenberg church door as a wake-up call to the wrong path the Church was on, so must we take up the challenge to wake ourselves from the menagerie, the fake storefront we have made for ourselves, calling it the Lord's Church. We are fooling ourselves, hurting our Lord, and missing the vital opportunities He has for us by our confounded actions that misgovern His Church. We should not be viewed as a reckless and arrogant force in society, but as the "feet of good news."
We must, as the body of Christ, get out of our little cliques, so we can allow the Holy Spirit to transform our thinking, renew our actions, and make us real to the people around us. We must come to genuinely care for other people as Christ cared for them. We are no longer to see people as obstacles, contradictions, and/or as being in the way; rather, we are to see them as Christ would see them. When we become real, we will fully realize our human nature and the emotions and concerns that plague us. Then, we can grow beyond our hidden agendas and allow Christ into our hearts and minds. This will enable us to go beyond our experiences and beyond our own hurts, distinguishing what life is really about. Then, Scripture and the spiritual disciplines that teach that life is about our relationship with Christ, with other Christians, and with other people around us will become clear to us. We don't need to climb the highest mountain in Tibet and ask the Dalai Lama the meaning of life when God has revealed it to us so clearly in His Word.
Because of that transformation, we will serve Christ out of our love and desire to do so, not just out of obligation and contempt. We will serve Christ because of the joy that is over flowing from us to those around us. We will demonstrate Christ and faith in everyday life. We are Christians because of what Christ has done for us. We reflect our integrity based on who we are in Christ, so that our morals and our values are pure, expressing Christ's nature. All these issues and diseases we struggle within our churches will become eradicated, as the tent of Christ's purity smokes them out like termites.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27
© 1999, 2008, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org