“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Although Charles Dickens was referring to mid 19th-century England, I suspect many of us could say the same about our relationships within the organized church.
We all know that the church should be a refuge, a hospital for sinners and the weary, yet we are sometimes met by stabbing saints instead of singing saints. Looking for sweet fellowship, we often get mired down in the stickiness of life.
One thing I’ve discovered is that there are no perfect churches; however, we can’t equate God’s church with God’s character. The church is people, and people aren’t perfect.
But don’t give in to the temptation to give up on church completely just because of a few bad experiences. It’s tempting. Trust me, I know. So, why should we keep attending church even when we’re doubting?
God desires us to be sanctified. Part of that ongoing process involves the church. I think we sometimes forget that. God calls us to be holy as he is holy, but it’s a process.
The purpose of the church body is to help and encourage each other, not to rip each other to shreds.
A dishonest [wo]man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.Proverbs 16:28
Looking for some guidelines on how to make sure you’re acting like a model church member? Look no further than the apostle Paul’s epistles to the New Testament churches. You’ll discover that there really is nothing new under the sun! Here’s a synopsis of the high points:
- Worry about yourself first. Don’t criticize others, especially those in leadership.
- Major on the majors (doctrine, right treatment of people) and minor on the minors (don’t let your contentiousness over the color of the carpet drive someone away from the church—true story).
- Don’t cover up sin or abuse, but tread carefully and biblically when dealing with it. I have so much more to say on this topic, but that’s for another time.
- Be kind. Be loving.
- Be involved. Don’t criticize the way people do things unless you’re willing to jump in and help. And even then hold your tongue.
- Instead of focusing on the splinter in your sister’s eye, focus on the log in yours (Matthew 7:1-4). Focus on building up your fellow saints instead. Your local church body will be better for it.
- Filter your words before they fly out of your mouth or off your fingertips.
- Don’t participate in gossip. While no one will deny that there are problems in the church, and church leaders are falling like flies, gossip only makes it worse. And don’t try to disguise your juicy news as a prayer request. We’re onto you, sister!
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29
Let’s focus on the sweetness of fellowship with believing sisters in the church. What’s one thing you can focus on this week to help foster positive relationships within the body of Christ? Leave me a comment (or email me back) and let me know!