Achieving a Unified Church
This issue of the Baptist Times initiates a step I’ve wanted to take for quite some time. In the past, we’ve published issues that dealt with particular themes, but this year we’re taking that to another level. I’ve long had a desire to create coordinated substantive content about various subjects that are, or should be, important to independent Baptist churches. My preaching and writing have a tendency almost always to gravitate toward establishing mindsets. I am convinced that long-term change comes from thinking right. It’s the old saying that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
It is my passion to take a vital subject and add something to the conversation. Something deep within me as a pastor wants members to believe truth because they understand it, not because I said it. Our emotions are fickle, in a daily state of change. But, somehow, it doesn’t seem to matter what mood I’m in—if I walk into my piano room and see that beautiful black Yamaha C3, I don’t mistake it for the refrigerator. Some things I’m so certain of that my emotions can’t overrule them, regardless of how strong my emotions may be. I want to give Christians that level of confidence in God’s divine truth, whether in doctrine or daily life.
I hope that you’ll read something about the theme in each issue that will increase your understanding in a way that deepens your appreciation for the divine way. Not every theme can be fleshed out the same manner, but I hope your thinking will be challenged enough to deepen your commitment to it. God’s way is not only right, it’s good—very good. That God said it makes it right, but it also makes it reasonable. Meaning you can usually reason out why it’s right if you care to. I want people to stick with divine truth because they are convinced it is the absolute best way to live. Peter refused to leave Christ when most of the others did in John 6. Why? It wasn’t because he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He stayed because he was sure there was no better place to go.
We begin this January issue with a challenge for church members to be unified. But why? The Bible tells me so. I agree. But why does the Bible tell me so? And how? We’ll delve into the answer to both questions. Here’s a start…
I am assuming that most of you are a part of a church, maybe the church where you picked up this issue of the Baptist Times. You wear several titles as part of that church. You are a member, as in the member of a body. In the Bible, you are also called a saint, positionally, while also challenged to be one practically. You are to be a disciple. I hope you truly are. While all of these titles are used primarily at church, you take them with you when you leave church. You are still a church member at your work. You are still considered a saint at school, at least positionally. And a true disciple will still be a disciple at Walmart. You carry those roles with you from church into the culture.
The reverse is true, as well. You have other roles that we could call cultural because they are lived out in the culture, not because the culture necessarily created them. You are likely an American. You might be a student. Maybe you’re a business owner, but, because you live in America, there is one title you carry as a direct result of being in the American culture—you are a consumer. You make constant decisions about what you will consume. You decide where to buy your clothes, including the style and the brand. You decide where to eat your meals, whether at particular restaurants or home, and what brands of foods to buy. You decide what vehicle you will buy or whether it will be a car or a truck or an SUV or a motorcycle, etc. You are used to having virtually unlimited choice when you shop at Walmart, Amazon, or a car lot.
Whenever you take the roles you focus on at church, such as member, saint, and disciple of Jesus, and live those out in your culture, it has a transforming effect that stands to vastly improve that culture. However, when you take the role of consumer that you’re so accustomed to living in your culture and live it out in your church, it has an equally powerful transforming effect, but the results are downright destructive. The truth is, every church reflects the prevailing mindset and expectations of its members; and those members walk into church with a mindset that sees themselves either as disciples or as consumers.
All members have to do their absolute best to check their consumerism at the door when they walk in. Otherwise, their demands for having infinite choice so they can see what fits them the best have a way of making ministry downright miserable and not unlike pampered consumers. Many members say proudly that they don’t want their pastor being a people-pleaser, yet end up offended when they’re the people he doesn’t please. Many pastors never figure out how to help the members be any different, struggling to find a consistent balance between catering and demanding.
So, how do you chisel a unified church out of a self-absorbed culture? Through a combined effort between pastor and members. And that’s whom this issue intends to help.