A few weeks ago I asked a simple question: “What is church?” The song that got this series of posts started was Maren Morris’ song, “My Church.” In the first post, “My Church,” I wrote about how the church is a specific thing, we don’t get to define it how we want, it is not a feeling or a specific expression that makes us feel “right.” Jesus Christ created the church, it is a specific and real thing that is defined by Christ. In the second post, “My Church – Part 2” I focused on the difference between serving for Jesus and devotion to Him. I expressed a concern that many of our churches were more concerned with service for Jesus than devotion to Him.
I still have not been able to get this idea off my mind. I wrestle with the question, “am I engaging in THE church or am I building MY church?” One my readings for a class highlights that church members (believers) need “courage to rebuke and humility to forgive” (D. Howell, Servants of the Servant, p. 192). He uses this line in reference to the biblical model of confrontation found in Matthew 18:15-35. In this passage, Jesus calls believers to (1) confront someone one on one, (2) if they do not repent to bring along two or three others, (3) if they still do not repent call them before the church, and (4) to break fellowship if they still do not repent.
This section of the book honestly cause me some concern for local churches. I am concerned that they have been defanged so to speak. You see, courage to rebuke and humility to forgive is what gives the church potency. If there is no courage to rebuke, then bad theology, bad practice, and in-fighting will destroy a church’s effectiveness. If there is no biblical, sacrificial humility then reconciliation and cooperation will never be possible. Unfortunate I fear that these things are missing both from my own life and from the church far too often.
As Americans and Southern Baptists in particular, our individualism and democratic process has created a system of churches that have no biblical system of accountability or authority. This is obviously not universally true, I would never say that about every church or even every baptist church, I am a baptist, but I fear that it is far too common.
What I see more often than one on one confrontation are the little comments made in passing to each other. The little “gripes” about the length of the sermon, the placement of the pulpit (or lack thereof), or the style of music used are far more common than biblical confrontation. I see snippiness, gossip, whining, and griping far too often and these things are usually done without courage or humility.
They are done without courage because, if they are made to the “leader” responsible at all it is in a context where they cannot wisely respond. They are made so that the gripe can be heard but not truly answered. They are done without humility because they are gripes based not on theology, biblical standards, or servant leadership, but rather preference and taste.
Jesus, the perfect servant leader, is right there in the text (scripture) to show us courage and humility. He rebuked Peter (Mark 8:33), he rebuked John & James (Matthew 18), he drove the vendors and money-changers out of the temple (John 2:15). Jesus was not afraid to confront people. But you also see unbelievable humility, Jesus washes his disciples feet (John 13:1-17) and chose the will of the Father which he knew would lead to his death on the cross (Matthew 26:42).
I guess what I asking is for each of us to consider carefully not just what we say but how we say it. If something is wrong in the church, then take up biblical courage and humility and deal with it in a way that honors God.