Most of us are familiar with the little hand exercise that begins with: here is the church; here is the steeple. Depending on whether or not we have our fingers interlocked, it may end with: open the door; where’s all the people – or – open the door; there’s all the people.
If only it were that simple. If only the church and the people were two different things, life might be so much more simple. “Church problems” could be fixed with hammers, saws, paint, etc. if the church really was only a building.
I fully understand that, when many people think of the word “church,” they think of a building. To be sure, our Lord did say that He would build His church in Matthew 16:18. When Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, he penned these words: “…you…are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20).
As that passage continues, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use words and phrases like “structure” (v. 21), “built together” (v. 22), and “dwelling place” (v. 22). It is beginning to sound like the church is, in fact, a building, doesn’t it?
However, the key word in the text to which we have referred may be the word “you.” To whom (or to what) were these words addressed?
As the epistle to the Ephesians begins, we find the answer. This epistle is addressed “…to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1).
The letter is addressed to people.
The church is composed of people.
The church is not made of wood, metal, bricks, mortar, wiring, plumbing, etc. The church is people.
The church is people who are not all alike.
As I type these words, I am thinking of the particular church family of which I am blessed to be a member and in which I serve as one of the elders. We are a diverse group.
As one would look around during one of our assemblies, he/she would see a variety of skin colors. We do not all have the same religious background. Some “grew up in the church.” In fact, some grew up in this particular congregation. Others have come from other religious backgrounds or no religious background at all.
If you include those who are too young to be Christians, we have people who have not yet begun their public or home school experience. At the same time, there are those who have completed years and years of formal education. We live in six different counties in two different states. (I recently discovered that one man who has been visiting on a regular basis has just begun the process of becoming a naturalized U. S. citizen.)
Where I worship, there are some fairly large extended families and there are some who have no other person there with whom they are related. There are those “in the prime of life” and those who are struggling with some debilitating effects of either aging or disease (or both). Some of us are fairly “well off” financially, while others of us are “struggling to get by.”
I could go on and on with how diverse one congregation can be, but that is not what is on my mind at this time. What I am thinking about presently has to do with the challenges and opportunities this diversity provides.
Unlike building materials, people have feelings. We can (and do) get hurt from time to time. We have opinions. Those opinions differ from time to time. We have emotions. Since we are all different, we cannot all expect to be happy, sad, excited, concerned, etc. at the same time. Each one of us has his/her individual preferences. It would border on foolish to think that even two people would have the exact same list of preferences on everything.
So – what does all of this mean?
At least in part, it means that there are no “quick fixes” to challenges that are bound to arise within a local congregation of God’s people. A new coat of paint will not cover up a problem. Replacing the flooring won’t solve anything. A proper solution for stresses that may arise will not be found in a new roof, updated plumbing, a revamped electrical system, etc.
“People problems” cannot be solved with building materials. Some other solution must be found. Some other solution is available.
It is interesting to me that, in the same letter in which Paul used “building terms,” he also was very aware that he was writing to people. He did not use building terms to address people problems. He did, however, write something in that same letter that would go a long, long way in preventing and/or solving problems that arise from time to time.
Some of us like to preach and teach a great deal on “the seven ones of Ephesians 4:4-6.” It is my firm belief that people outside of Christ will not care much about those seven ones until and unless they see those who claim to be His people practicing what they read in Ephesians 4:1-3.
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, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).
I am not, by any stretch of anybody’s imagination, a handyman. I am, however, a Christian. As such I pray that I will use the “tools” I have at my disposal to build and repair; not to damage and destroy.
If a church needs to be remodeled, that project might need to begin with me. I might need to check my attitude, my level of involvement, and my dedication to the One whose name I wear.
AUTHOR: Jim Faughn
[Editor’s Note: Today’s article is a guest post from Jonathan Medley from the Pippen church of Christ. We are grateful for his willingness to share this article with our readers.]
At one time, society considered the admission of being homosexual extremely taboo, and it ruined the reputation and careers of many high-profile individuals. More importantly, society considered it sinful. However, society has changed. Today, it almost seems “fashionable” to some to be homosexual, and there are many who unashamedly proclaim it to the world. Along with the change in society has come the concept of thinking that someone is “born this way.” By that, they claim that being homosexual is encoded into the person’s genetic makeup, meaning there is nothing he or she can do about it.
Many in the scientific community have spent countless hours (and untold amounts of money) trying to determine if genetics has anything to do with someone being homosexual. In a nutshell, they are trying to determine if homosexuality is a “choice.” Some scientists claim they have proven you can be born homosexual. Some scientists claim there is no evidence for such a claim. A quick Google search will show that there is no consensus on this study.
But this short article is not scientific in nature, and that’s for one very good reason. I’m not a scientist. I won’t even venture to claim that I fully understand these studies. I’ve tried to read a few of them, but some of the lingo simply goes over my head. However, there is one thing that I understand, and it’s impossible to misinterpret:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” [I Corinthians 6:9-10] (emphasis added)
Far too often, we as Christians seem to get wrapped up in arguments that pull us away from Scripture. Just recently, I had someone ask me if I believed that you could be born a homosexual. My response was simple: “It’s irrelevant.” Knowing that I was a Christian, this individual was shocked that I didn’t immediately criticize such a claim. Instead, it opened up the opportunity for a conversation. I explained to this individual that the answer to that question really doesn’t matter. Instead, the question should be, “If I am born with a desire to commit sin, does that mean I have the right to commit that sin and stand justified before God?” The answer to that question is emphatically NO!
Homosexuality is sin. There is no question about it. Anyone who claims otherwise is either dismissing Scripture altogether or ignoring many parts of it (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-5; Romans 1:26-28; I Timothy 1:8-11; I Corinthians 7:2). Having a strong temptation to commit an act that is sinful does not mean that I’m not required to stand up to that temptation. For years, some have claimed that serial killers are more prone to commit murder than others due to their genetic makeup. Let’s say for a moment that is true. Does that mean that God will turn a blind eye to this person’s act of murder? Absolutely not!
So what do you say to someone who claims he or she has the desire to be a homosexual and there’s nothing that can be done about it? I would begin by sharing with that person the same thing that Paul shared with the congregation in Corinth:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” [I Corinthians 10:13]
Guest Author: Jonathan Medley
Satan is good. He is horribly, terribly good. Oh, he’s not good in the sense that he is free from malice or evil. But he is good at his work.
What exactly is the work of Satan? From the beginning, he has been a master deceiver seeking to disrupt the peace and harmony between God and man. In the book of Job, when questioned about his activity Satan said he had been “…going to and fro on the earth, and … walking up and down on it.” He conveniently left out what Peter reveals about those earthly wanderings in 1 Peter 5:8: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
How do we even fight against an enemy who is “a liar and the father of lies…” (John 8:44)? How do you defend against someone who is the master of chaos, the “the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9)?
May I offer the most comforting answer that I have found? It is simply in knowing that Jehovah God, the One Who is on our side, is better. He is more powerful. In fact, He has already won and all we must do is to stand in Him!
Remember dear friends that it is God Who will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4). It is God Who has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Romans 8:38-39 still rings true today: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So how do we rest in that peace? We put on the armor God has provided that will protect us from Satan and his fiery darts. We rely on God’s strength and not our own. We depend on His promises and wait on His timing. We stand in Him.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13 [emphasis added]
AUTHOR: Amber Tatum
In the old King James Version, it was called “whispering” (Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20). Today, we call it gossip.
More than that, though, we often laugh at it, treating it as something harmless that people just do.
In reality, gossip is a hideous sin, and it will destroy lives…and can even destroy a congregation.
To understand why gossip is so dangerous, though, we must understand what gossip is. The King James Version uses the word “whispering” or “whisperers” to translate the word that we usually think of as “gossip.” The reason why they chose that word was actually very good.
There was another Greek term that usually comes to us in Scripture as the word “slander,” and it carried the idea of hurting someone openly. Sometimes, we hear it as a “backbiter.” The idea is that we are tearing down someone’s character out in the open.
A “whisperer”–a gossip–though, does just the same thing, but in hushed tones. Spiros Zodhiates describes the Greek word as “a secret slanderer” (The Complete Word Study New Testament, pg. 968). It is not out in the open like a slanderer, but the result is the same.
We are harming someone’s reputation, but doing so in a quiet, hushed fashion. Thus, a “whisperer.”
But, isn’t this just harmless? We aren’t really hurting anyone. We’re just telling a few stories. We’re just blowing off some steam…….
It is far from harmless. In fact, gossip is pure evil.
Consider how truly evil gossip is. Not only is it going against the reputation of a fellow Christian, it is doing so without even having the backbone to do so to that person’s face. It is hearing some “juicy tidbit” about someone and not even having the courtesy or love to check the story with the one this could harm. It is running to tell another person the worst about someone before we ever stop to pray to our Father in heaven, seeking best in that person.
And here we thought it was just passing along a little story.
Gossip can ruin a person’s reputation. It can change, and even destroy, relationships. It can cause tension and distrust among people.
And all the while, we are just laughing it off as no big deal. It’s just what people do, right?
These little tales go to our inmost being and make us feel like we have something we just have to share. They eat away at our heart and soul for other people, and we reduce relationships to digging for dirt to talk about. “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down to the inner parts of the body” (Proverbs 18:8). And then it spreads since we just have to tell.
In our technological age, gossip is more incendiary than ever. As soon as we hear that little tidbit, we pick up our smartphone and group text (making sure, of course, that the “guilty” party isn’t included in the group). We jump on Messenger and share it with someone several states away. We call up our friends and “just have to tell” what we have heard.
And all the while, the Bride of Christ is hurt.
A brother or sister in Christ is having his/her name run through the mud.
The community is learning that we do not keep secrets, and we do not mind sharing “dirt” on someone we claim to love.
A society is seeing that we are looking for some little tale to tell, just like they are.
A family member is, possibly, in need of loving restoration, but, instead, is being run down without even knowing it.
And the trust needed to have a strong and loving Christian family is slowly eroded, one conversation or one late-night text message at a time.
Eventually, though the doors to the building are open, the light of a congregation that is filled with gossip is snuffed out. A church can be destroyed, as the family atmosphere is eroded tale by tale by tale…….
Paul commanded Christians, “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). In what way could we possibly say that gossip is “good for building up?” In what way is it possibly a type of speech that “gives grace?”
We can’t, because gossip is evil.
Before you press “send;” before you make that phone call to tell what you have heard; before you sit around and listen to the latest gossip from around town; consider the Bride of Christ. Consider your Christian family. Consider the reputation of the church.
And leave the gossip behind.
AUTHOR: Adam Faughn
Photo background credit: S. Packwood on Creative Commons
Adam recently posted an article on A Legacy of Faith sharing his thoughts about what people are looking for in preachers. The title was What Too Many People Want in a Preacher. If you did not read that post, I encourage you to do that.
As I read his thoughts, a statement came to mind that I heard an older preacher say years ago. At that time, I was in my early years of attempting to preach the gospel. The man who was older than me at that time was probably about the age I am now.
Although I wasn’t around this man a great deal, I still considered him to be sort of a mentor of mine. I appreciated his Bible knowledge and his years of experience. I also appreciated the fact that, like me, he had not begun his adult life as a gospel preacher. I felt that this gave him a perspective that some might not have who start preaching right after graduating from a school supported by Christians.
As I remember it, there was some discussion going on about how to increase attendance at Bible classes and worship services. I was not really a part of the discussion, but I was just trying to learn all I could.
Somewhere during that discussion, my friend and mentor uttered these words:
“What draws ‘em keeps ‘em.”
In the years since I heard that statement, I’ve had many opportunities to see the wisdom in that observation. I’ve also tried to keep that statement in mind as I’ve attempted to serve the Lord.
Please consider the following:
As you consider that, please consider also the statement made by Jesus and the inspired commentary provided to us by John, the apostle:
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die (John 12:32-33).
It would be difficult to overestimate the work and influence of the apostle Paul on the early church. In fact, it would be difficult to overestimate the effect of his efforts on the church of every age.
It seems to this observer that Paul realized that, in the final analysis, there is only one legitimate and scriptural way to draw people to Christ:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2)
AUTHOR: Jim Faughn
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On this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah discuss a host of items going on in their lives as well as some things they have found around the web recently. Links below!
Podcast: “Personal Evangelism in a Small Town” [guest Rob Whitacre]
Book: For Better or For Kids [Amazon]
To subscribe to A Legacy of Faith by email for free click here.
It’s a song we don’t sing very often anymore. Written in 1911 by William P. Merrill, this song has a command we don’t often hear from those in leadership positions today. The first verse reads: “Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things; give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of Kings.”
As I have been studying the book of Nehemiah lately, this song kept coming to my mind. The strength of Nehemiah’s leadership in the face of so much opposition has invaluable lessons for us today.
Nehemiah was a man of passion. When he learned about the remnant who were in shame and the condition of the wall and gates surrounding Jerusalem, he wept and mourned over the state of that great city. How many of us today have shed tears, fasted, and mourned for the weakened condition of the church in so many places?
Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He turned to the only Source of all good blessings in his time of trouble. I have taken the time to color all of the times that Nehemiah prayed in this short book. I find it refreshing to thumb through the pages and see the times that he turned to God in prayer. Sometimes they were long prayers, and sometimes they were short utterances, but they were sent to the “Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep His commandments.” Do I recognize this great source of strength?
Nehemiah was a planner. It seems very obvious to me that Nehemiah had spent some time in thinking through what he would need in order to complete the task of rebuilding the wall, should he get the opportunity to do so. He needed time off, confirmation from the king that he had the authority to travel to Jerusalem, and letters for the timber he would need to rebuild the gates that had been burned. How often to I devote time to planning something that will help build up God’s Kingdom, the church?
Nehemiah was a partner. After surveying the damage and assessing the work that was before them, he makes one of the most powerful statements in this account. “Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision” (2:17, emphasis added). Rather than sitting back and expecting others to do the work, he joined in helping with rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem. Do I ever think that the work is for someone else to do, or do I willingly join in with others to accomplish what needs to be done for the Lord?
Nehemiah was opposed from without and within. He was ridiculed, discouraged by friends and enemies, talked about falsely, and met with opposition on every side. In every instance, he met these darts of the devil with prayer and courage. He not only showed the strength that a man of God should have in times of trial, but also the way to respond to such opposition. How often when I am opposed is my first thought to pray and then calmly respond to the opposition?
Nehemiah was a provider. He provided courage and help for rebuilding the wall which gave the city of Jerusalem physical protection. He then began to make provision for the spiritual protection of those people who would reside in that territory. Ezra was called to bring the Book of the Law of Moses and he read it before the people – “the men and women and all those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (8:3). Am I attentive to God’s Word today, and do I see it as the provision of protection for my life?
The lessons from Nehemiah could go on and on, but I hope that if you haven’t studied this book lately, this short list will whet your appetite to dig into the text and apply these lessons to your life.
Rise up, O men (and women) of God. Face the opposition with the help of the same powerful God who helped Nehemiah so long ago.
“Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod;
As brothers of the Son of man,
Rise up, O men of God!”
AUTHOR: Donna Faughn
Photo background credit: David Amsler
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Starting next week, we will make a change in our podcast. It will still be released every two weeks, but the format will be a little different.
On this very brief podcast, Adam lets you know about the changes.
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