Ok, I admit it, I like a good controversy as much as anyone. There is just something about the fuss! However, have you heard the one about the Baptist church that scheduled a fight and a business meeting broke out! That's kind of an inside joke among, and it really does overstate the issue somewhat. However, we Baptists are often times known more for our battles than our benevolence. Again, this is somewhat of an over-generalization
based upon somewhat isolated issues in varying churches, but there is some reasoning behind it. As far as our denomination (Southern Baptist Convention) there has been times when a dust-up was more than necessary. The conservative resurgence of 1979 - roughly 1998 is a case in point. That was a reason to fight. We were fighting for the very evangelical soul of our denomination, and thankfully, those who hold to the inerrancy and truth of God's Word prevailed. When David found himself on the battlefield in the midst of a Jewish army that was fearful and faithless, he proclaimed "Is there not a cause"? (1 Samual 17:29)
The fact is, there are things worth 'fighting for"
However, most of the things that cause us to fuss and fight in the context of the local church do not rise to that level. We fuss about issues that have little if anything to do with eternal matters and often times subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with Biblical Christianity. I like to categorize conflict in the local church in two ways. There are Issues of opinion and issues of conviction. Opinion has to do with those things that at the end of the day really do not matter. I mean, we may feel strongly about them, they may be important, they may even be necessary, however, they are not eternal nor biblical. Issues of conviction, however, are those things we will fight and die for.
They involve that which is the heart of God and the gospel. Jude stated it clearly (Jude 3) The Virgin Birth, The Deity of Christ, Salvation by grace through faith; you get the idea.
So why do we fuss? Why argue? Why do we fight? Well, the answer is pretty simple. We are fallen people subject to a fallen nature. However, we are also redeemed people who should be walking in the fullness of the Spirit of God. We should be different. Think about the last time you were involved in a dispute or disagreement at church. Was it an opinion or a conviction? Would you prevailing or not have any impact on the mission and message of the gospel? Are the collateral damage from broken relationships and splintered fellowship worth the battle?
Why do we fight? Well, the answer is pretty simple.
We are fallen people subject to a fallen nature.
However, we are also redeemed people who should be walking i
n the fullness of the Spirit of God. We should be different.
A call to unity is much more than our simply 'getting along no matter what". The call to unity is not a call to conformity. Our being 'one' is not the same thing as our being the 'same.' We are however called to unity in the gospel and single-mindedness in regards to the mission and ministry of the local church. God has called us to GOSPEL UNITY, not relational conformity.
So how is this brought forth? How do we achieve a level of maturity which fosters gospel unity and God-glorifying love and affection for one another? What must we do or not do? Following are some friendly suggestions for us all. They are born from 30 years of ministry in the local church. I offer them for your careful and prayerful consideration.
1) There must be a recognition that to participate or foster disunity is a sin. Like all sin, we must repent. Scripture is ripe with God's desire that we walk in gospel unity.
2) Avoid presuming motive for those in which you find yourself disagreeing. You do not know their hearts, and you cannot read their minds. Like you, they feel that they are doing or representing that which is best for the church and which represents the will of God.
3) DO NOT participate or be a part of gossip or backbiting. That is not to say you can't seek council (see the next point) but you must be careful to not say anything about anyone concerning any aspect of your disagreement that you would not indeed tell them yourself. Do not share in privacy issues in a public way with other believers.
4) Seek GODLY council from those who are in a place of greater spiritual maturity than yourself. Recognize that you have more to learn that you know. Ask, listen, heed, pray and then utilize the information or council you have been given.
5) Pray more...talk less
6) Instead of talking about one another, try talking to one another. Listen to your brother and sister and their position. Find the wisdom in it if you can. Beseech them to hear you out... Coffee, tea, or a good hamburger makes an excellent mediator in issues of disagreement.
7) Recognize and practice humility. The fact is...you might be wrong! In fact, in any position that involves opinion, there are aspects that you are. It takes humility to recognize this. Accept it. Demonstrate it.
God has called us to GOSPEL UNITY, not relational conformity.
8) Talk less...listen more
9) Never allow anger or a pugnacious attitude rule your emotions. We should never lose our cool. We should always be kind, tender, patient and demonstrate a sweet spirit; even with those, we disagree with, with those who have been unkind to us, even those we may not like.
10) Understand that much that we bicker about is better delegated to our leaders, pastors, elders and capable men and women who are gifted to lead God's church. Children need not argue about what bills to pay...mother and father will handle that. God has gifted the church with men and women to lead. Men who are are pastors, elders, and deacons. Women who are gifted in administration and ministries of mercy. They are all gifted and equipped to deal with much of this. Submit yourself to their leadership and, and you will find there is much less to argue about!
11) Listen more...but listen to God
God calls us to gospel unity. We are family, we will fuss and disagree. However, when we do, may we do so in a God-glorifying, Christ-honoring way.
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