The Laodicean Project- My Church Can Beat Your Church Up!

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” -1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Another crucial aspect that I feel the Church needs to get in order to be able to effectively reach traditionally Christian societies is the aspect of unity. In this I don’t mean to argue that we should dissolve denominational boundaries (though I think this should be done to some extent) but instead that we should strive to be on mission together both inside our church and collectively as churches. I say this because it seems to me that a prevailing attitude in the Christian community today is to be in competition with everyone else, whether that be with or brothers and sisters in our own church, or between various churches in our neighborhoods and communities.

The first issue we would want to deal with is competition among our brothers and sisters in our own church. This is specifically what it appears that Paul is talking about when he comments that he “thank[s] God” that he only baptized a few of the people in the church at Corinth, so that there would not be great division over who was baptized by whom. Personally I know that I can relate to this because it has often been, and still is sometimes, a flaw of mine that I feel like I am in competition with those sitting in the pews around me. It is a competition to have the keenest insight or to appear the most compassionate or encouraging person. Just a week ago I experienced this as I was planning on sending out an email to remind some men about a small group meeting, when all of a sudden I went online and saw that someone else had already done this. Just this tiny thing made me feel slightly discouraged that I wasn’t able to show my devotion and piety by being the one who reminded everyone. Of course this attitude was sinful and I repented and asked for peace and humility to not stumble over such thoughts, but I know that this is still a prevalent temptation in my life.

This type of competition is so harmful to the church body. When a group of people are solely interested in elevating themselves and seeing themselves glorified higher than one another it leads to an environment where (1) people are not interested in listening to each other but only concerned with topping what the other person said or did, and (2) people try and steal the glory from God and place it on themselves. Therefore, we need to strive to defeat this attitude of oneupmanship among our congregation, a call which is specifically poignant to the guys in the group. A particularly good book to think about reading if you are dealing with this issue is Humility by CJ Mahaney.

Second, we have to keep from getting caught up in competing with other churches in our area. This may or may not be what Paul is addressing when he talks of the divisions and the quarrellings among the people who say “I follow Paul” or “I follow Peter,” that the church at Corinth had broken down into sects depending upon the teacher a group followed and then these groups battled for supremacy of ones authority over another. Regardless of if this is what was happening, it is clear to see that this is not the appropriate way to operate. Of course, we have to speak carefully, since there are divisions among churches which would be appropriate, like the case if a congregation begins teaching things in contradiction to the Scriptures such as Christ was not God or you can be saved by works apart from faith. These types of doctrinal issues should separate churches and groups of believers. However, the type of division and competition which is harmful is that which says “We must be the biggest church” and “We must have the most influence in the city.” Institutionally it can be the case that our churches display the same lack of concern for God’s glory as we can as individuals.

A particular way that this comes out is when churches begin attacking each other in order to win over certain audiences that may have prejudices against a specific characteristic of a church. One instance I can recall of this in my life was a battle between two churches which sat next to each other on a major road in my hometown. One church had four to six thousand in attendance over a typical weekend, whereas the other one probably had one service of 150. When the time came for the larger church to begin building more structures in order to fit their ever-growing congregation, apparently the little church decided it had had enough with the circus next door, because I will never forget what their marquee read over those few months. It said, “Come join us as we keep growing in God’s way.” This has always stuck with me, that this one church, instead of trying to carry out its mission with the lot that God had granted it, or instead of encouraging and being thankful that the congregation next door was being blessed so greatly, they decided to try and turn people against the larger church in order to increase their own standing. I don’t know how it worked out for them, but I can tell you most assuredly that I don’t think God was pleased with this.

So that’s what we need to keep in mind. The Church isn’t a business and we are not in competition with other Christ following congregations in our communities. We are all called to evangelize, baptize, and train up disciples in order that individuals may be saved and God may be glorified, and this should never come at the expense of any other fellowship of believers. We need to be thankful for what the Lord grants us, aggressive in pursuing it, but in the end we need to encourage our fellow churches that strive to see people reached in a biblical manner as well. We must keep in mind that the body of Christ is not divided and that a soul saved and rightly discipled is a joy to the Lord, regardless of which local body carries it out.

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