“and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”-Acts 20:30
What is more important:
Doing things that glorify me or things that glorify Jesus?
Working to build up my personal reputation or a church that endures?
Making disciples who follow me or the church?
Hopefully you agree the latter phrase of each question is correct. We glorify Christ by working on the building up of local churches by making disciples of Jesus Christ who is, “head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”-Ephesians 1:22-23.
At this point someone might say, “Everybody knows that preacher man! Why are you bringing it up?” Well, I have seen, heard about, and suffered through many a moment where men did not put the church first. In a moment when they were challenged, it was their will they tried to enforce. When the chips were down, they sought what would make themselves happy, not what was best for the church.
This is a good place to reestablish one or the most central doctrines of the Bible. The church is the body of Christ. Jesus is the church’s one and only head. To submit to the church is to submit to Jesus. The church is God’s way of displaying his wisdom and power in bringing people of all walks of life, skin color, and nationality to live in peace within the same church (Ephesians 3:6-12).
We learn to submit to God by submitting to each other as members of the same body. The Holy Spirit through Paul emphasizes our need for togetherness, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”-Ephesians 4:15-16.
So, how often do I think, “What is the best thing for the church?” Our Christian walk is not one of, “What can God do for me?” but “What can I do to serve God?” We literally serve Christ when we serve his body.
Paul gives us a lens through which to examine our motives and those of others. In Acts chapter 20, the apostle met with the elders from the church in Ephesus. After charging them to shepherd every single sheep in the church by emphasizing the price paid by God; Paul warns them some leaders in the church will amputate parts of Christ’s body for their own gain! When you see men looking to, “draw away the disciples after them.”-Acts 20:30. Their motive is selfish. Their desire is not to glorify Jesus in the church but to be glorified by others.
The history of non-institutional churches of Christ in Clarksville has often been one of selfish ambition and division. South Clarksville begat Warfield Boulevard. Warfield begat North Second Street. North Second Street begat Cumberland. South Clarksville folded their tent two decades ago and Cumberland barely lasted a year. In each instance, were the instigators of division pondering how best to edify the body of Christ to which they belonged? Were they looking; to heal or wound, to unify or divide, to submit to one another in love or draw away disciples for themselves?
People are imperfect and there may come a time for departure. But a spirit of division and self has permeated the church in our fair city where the Spirit is unity and submission, “to one another out of reverence for Christ.”-Ephesians 5:21. Let us work for peace and edification. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what the church can do for you. Ask what you can do for the body of Christ.”