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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Church Membership: Humility

"When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship. "

Did you laugh to yourself when you read that? Did it seem ridiculous? Probably so, as it would to nearly all of us. We think of the broken people in churches - broken through their own pettiness, sinfulness and power-mongering, and we know it can't happen. We think of the fellowships broken through the pursuit of various agendas or dogmatic grappling over worship styles or Bible versions or the use of the tables in the fellowship hall, and we know it can't happen. We think of the different Christian communities we have been in and see all that has been wrong with them and we know it can't happen.

Yet there is a single, solitary thread that imbues all of those things we think of: we are not among those we consider messed up. The church problems we encounter are always the fault of someone else! We never could have been apart of that! Those people...

Consider what the book of Romans has to say:

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations… Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand... For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way… Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Romans 14:1-19 (excerpts) (KJV)

Why do you consider yourself better than your brethren? Because, at the end of the day, it is our pride that keeps us from the fellowship. "Not those people, with their blue hair, their hang-ups over the buildings, their failure to evangelise, their failure to aid the needy. Not those people." How dare we? How dare we reject the gospel and place our righteousness above our brother's?

This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:1-21 (KJV)

When we separate ourselves from our brethren, we explciity are stating that we are better than they - whatever the reason might be. The is no part of the body meant to be separate from the body, and there is no spiritual gift given that is meant to operate exclusively outside the body.

I finish with a short though from Max Lucado. I'll be the first to say that I don't buy Max Lucado's books - I find them essentially written for people who do not think like me, or are in a place in their lives that I am not (at least not today). However, his words are often profound. I first read this one about three years ago,and I'll never forget it. I know, for certain, that it will speak to some of you as well. (I apologize for the font issues. I can't seem to fix them.)

Lord, who may enter your Temple?

Who may worship on Zion, your sacred hill?

Those who obey God in everything

and always do what is right,

PS 15:1-2.

Have you ever noticed how many people want to be right with God?

Rich people,
Religious people,
Nature people,
City people.

All kinds of people want to be right.

Some people get educated:
They learn all the funny little Greek symbols,
They learn all about theology,
They learn all about manuscripts, papyri, Dead Sea Scrolls
And so on and on…

They are righteous, they say…and they huddle together and sneer at those who are not.

Some people get mission-minded:
They learn new languages,
They teach untaught people
They take pictures of converts and speak at conferences.

They are righteous, they say…and they all huddle together and sneer at those who are not.

Some people get vocational:
They get a job,
They pay their own way,
They rub elbows with the “real world”
They are drops of leaven in a swelling society.

They are righteous, they say…and they all huddle together and sneer at those who are not.

You know, I think that sometimes God looks down at this dusty footstool and sees

The righteous theological huddle,
The righteous missionary huddle
The righteous vocational huddle
…and I think he sighs.


  • Thanks so much for this post. I very much needed this. Not for a pat on the back, but for affirmation of some thoughts I have had recently.

    While I was recently quite upset about a situation in church, I see how this upset makes me as guilty as the "upsetter", (and, essentially makes us an upsetter as well!) if I participate. Instead, I have worked at humility and turning the other cheek both myself and with my children. It's difficult when you feel there is a real problem going on, but this makes us quite guilty of turning churh into being about us. I am there to worship and serve God, not raise myself up to a place of comfort.

    Thank you for the reminder that it is always right to be humble, and that it is always right to accept church and even a challenge presented there, as being an avenue of teaching that Christ has brought us to.

    By Blogger Rightthinker2, at 2/02/2007 10:34:00 AM  

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