Ten Hard Truths (and Sweet Reminders) about the Church-Part 2

VI. The Key to Unity in the Church Is Submission
"Submit yourselves to one another in the fear of the Lord" (Eph. 5:21). We submit ourselves to the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus, yes. But, just as tough and perhaps even more irrational, we are required to submit to one another.

Humility is a far bigger deal in the Lord's plan than it is within the Christian movement today. In fact, many of the best-known preachers and denominational leaders literally parade their pride and flaunt their oversized egos. In doing so, they deny the Lord who had no place to lay His head, and was among us as one who served.

To submit simply means to yield to the other person. Suppose you and I disagree. After a full discussion, I say, "Let's do it your way." Instantly, the decision is made and the division is nipped in the bud. Two motorists meet in the middle of a one-way bridge. The first leans out of his window and yells, "I never back up for fools!" The second throws his car into reverse and calls, "I always do."

Only the strong can submit; the weak will bull forward, insisting on their own way. And, when they do, the church grows steadily weaker and weaker for such shenanigans.

Let the leadership of the Lord's Church preach unity and demonstrate submission to the congregation. Pastors submit to their people when they respond to calls for help, for counsel, for ministry, when they put the needs of others before themselves. The congregation submits to its leaders (see Hebrews 13:17) when members do not carp, do not withhold their witness or praise or attendance or offerings, but enthusiastically join in and follow their lead.

How hard it is to submit myself to someone who seems undeserving. "Lord, help me to have the spirit of Christ in all I do."

VII. Pastors and Elders Are Called by God-Appointed as Overseers of the Church-While Deacons Are Chosen by the Church as Servants of the Congregation
The first point-overseers-comes from Acts 20:28, and the second, this business of serving, comes from Acts 6:1-7. The deacons are accountable both to the congregation and the pastors and elders. The pastors and elders are accountable to the congregation. All are accountable to God, of course. Pastors and elders are God's point men, sent not to make the congregation happy but to make them holy and healthy and to make God happy.

Deacons are more responsible than anyone else for maintaining and protecting the unity of the church. If there is a troublemaker or a rift in the congregation, they should deal with it promptly, in love, in fairness, and in all

If pastors and elders are the point men, deacons ride drag, bring up the rear, keep the congregation together, and deal with trouble whenever it erupts.

How blessed I have been by strong, faithful pastors and godly, humble deacons throughout my life. "Lord, help me exhibit the same Christ-likeness to those who come behind."

VIII. There Will Always Be Conflicts and Challenges to the Church, and That's Not Always Bad
"There must be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you" (1 Cor. 11:19).

Every church needs a little conflict from time to time. Every church will have its share of challenges. And if it handles these wisely, a number of good things will happen.

The church will draw the attention of the watching world. Some will want to see you fail, while others will watch to see if you live by the teachings of the Savior whom you confess.

The challenge will test your mettle. Do you truly believe the Word or is that just so much talk? Handle it well and you will give the trouble-making devil a black eye. Handle it well and the difficult ones within the congregation will receive valuable lessons never to be forgotten. Handle it well, and outsiders will be attracted to Jesus Christ and your ministry. Acts 6:7 is a great testimony to how this works.

How enlightening it is to look back down the years and see how the Lord has used the conflicts and stresses He allowed into my life. "Lord, help me never to run from the next problem that arises, but to look for Thy hand."

IX. The Bible Intentionally Blurs the Line between the Church Universal, Local, and Worldwide
All the saints across time and eternity make up the Kingdom of God and therefore, His true church. The local church, that congregation with which I am affiliated, is also the church, as are the saints across the world who are serving Jesus Christ at this moment.

Recently, as I was leading a deacons' retreat for an Alabama church, we were dealing with some of these concepts. A man asked, "So, is the church this building or the people?" I answered, "Strictly speaking, it's the people. However, this building is where the Lord's people meet to serve and teach and minister. So, it is no stretch to say that whoever vacuums the floors is serving Jesus, whoever mows the lawn is cutting the Lord's.

If that blurred the line, so be it. A neglected house of worship-it needs paint, the grounds need tending, the acoustics are terrible-reflects poorly on the people, the Lord, and our message.

There is a redundancy in our salvation. The Lord saves us, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and He gives us an entire family to help us live this life. He gives us the Bible to guide us, opportunities to serve Him, challenges to grow us, and faith to sustain us.

How wise we are to treasure every church that honors Christ and preaches the Word. "Lord, help me to bless every believer in Jesus I meet, no matter what denomination they belong to."

X. As a Living Organism, the Church Is Always Growing, Changing, and in a State of Flux
"I will build my church," Jesus said. He is constantly at work in His Church.

A church is always changing. Someone joins and the church grows; someone leaves and the church diminishes. Someone begins reading his Bible regularly or giving generously or sharing Christ with his neighbors and the church gets stronger. Someone drops out of church or neglects the Word or finds other things to do with his money, and the church grows weaker.

I'm always amused by people who move to a new city and set out to find a church like the beloved congregation they just left. If given the opportunity, I tell them, "There is no other church like that one. The Lord's churches are like your children, each one unique. And furthermore, the church back home is not like it was, either. When you moved away, that church changed. When other people joined it, it changed again. It's always changing. And to ask the Lord to reproduce here in your new neighborhood what He once did in the old one is to require what He has never done and has no intention of doing again."

I tell them, "The Lord is trying to do a new thing in your life. Don't ask Him to repeat the old, former lessons. Be open to the next stage He has for you."

How hard it is to accept change and the new things our leaders introduce. "Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You, that I may serve and grow and be found faithful. Father, help us to honor Your Church as we someday expect to honor Your around the throne. For Jesus' sake. Amen."

Joe McKeever is a retired Southern Baptist pastor from New Orleans, Louisiana. He blogs regularly at www.joemckeever.com.

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