Ministry can be a tug of war! Consider the forces that pull against unity within a local church each and every week:
1) First, there is the pastor pulling in the direction that he believes God is calling them to;
2) Then there is the leadership board that thinks their job is to tell the pastor what to do;
3) Often there is a small but powerful group of people trying to control the church;
4) And then, sometimes, there is something wrong with the congregation and simply don’t want to do anything.
Now, what happens when all of this is going on at once? Yes, that’s right – nothing valuable happens! There is a lot of energy being expended, but nothing good happens – and, in fact, people get injured and tired and simply drop out!
The lesson every person in every church needs to learn is this:
UNITY PRODUCES GREATER RESULTS THAN INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS!
The reality is this: Unity is IMPOSSIBLE when everyone has to have their own way! In essence, this is one of the biggest challenges of the church! We have to pull together if we want to get something incredible done!
Over the next 4 blogs, I would like to answer the question, “What causes different people within the congregation to pull in different directions?” Ephesians 4 gives us 4 possible motivations. These are the four challenges to unity within every church. This week we look at …
Challenge #1: SELFISHNESS
Selfishness plagues every church, for selfishness is the evidence of spiritual immaturity. Ephesians 4:1-3 provides 6 evidences of selfishness …
1) A lifestyle of self-serving (v. 1 – opposite of the calling of Jesus)
2) Pride (v. 2 – opposite of humility)
3) Being loud and unkind (v. 2 – opposite of gentleness)
4) Being impatient (v. 2 – opposite of patience)
5) Hatred (v. 2 – opposite of love)
6) Being divisive (v. 3 – opposite of unity)
How do we turn people away from selfishness? We turn people away from selfishness by pointing people to their calling. How do we do this?
Unity happens when …
1) We walk worthy of our calling – (Ephesians 4:1)
This is what the Apostle Paul teaches us, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called …” Ephesians 4:1
We are called to be ‘witnesses’ of Jesus. In being a witness, we are call to glorify God with our life. Our motivation for this is Christ’s gift of salvation: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Clayton King speaks to this battle against selfishness within all of us when he says, “I want what is easiest, safest, and most convenient. But then the Holy Spirit speaks to me, as I am sure He does to you, and reminds me that my life is not my own anymore. I am compelled by a greater calling and a greater mission than my own self-preservation” (Dying To Live. Clayton King. 2010. pp 30-32).
Not only do we need to walk worthy of our calling, we also see that unity happens when …
2) We bear with one another in love – (Ephesians 4:2)
Paul explains this when he says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love …” (Ephesians 4:1-2). Note the passage does NOT say, “Be a bear with one another.” Quite some time ago I learned from my vet that “Bitten dogs bite.” Likewise, when we are in pain, we often lash out at others. When we are patient and seek to understand others, we are fulfilling this command.
As we bear with others because of our desire to walk worthy of our calling …
3) We are eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3)
Selflessness means we choose to set aside our agenda and our preferences for the greater good of the entire body. This is a decidedly difficult decision for the baby or immature Christ follower. Why? Because it means we have to set aside ourselves and put others in the center of our universe – just as Jesus did during his life on Earth.
What do we unite over? We unite over two things in particular.
1) We unite over the essentials of faith (Ephesians 4:4-6)
All too often we quibble about the smaller matters and fail to unite over the essentials of the faith.
What are the essentials of the faith? Paul lists them as, “There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
2) We unite behind the gifts of faith (v. 7-8)
Jesus gives gifts to the church … they are ‘grace gifts’ to lead and guide his people into all that he desires for them. As Paul explains, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:7-8).
When we move from the challenge of selfishness to our second challenge in the church in our next blog, we will explore exactly what these gifts are – and be prepared, they are most likely not what you have in mind!