Friends of ours are in the process of rearing three very young children. With awesome hearts of love, they’re doing all that they can to raise physically and emotionally healthy children. There is a slight problem, however. Those cute little kids are expressing their own little wills, as all of us are wont to do. Their first boy (and youngest child), Noah, refuses to eat anything but bananas and pancakes. Suddenly, years of parental planning are out the window as they scramble to adjust to this little guy’s strong personal opinions!
A unified Church is an awesome ideal, but achieving that ideal presents much more of a challenge. After all, people are people. Each has their own will. Many enter the doors of a local church with a vast assortment of opinions, hurts and personal baggage. Others refuse to connect with a local body because of some type of negative experience along the way.
The front-line challenge facing pastors and other church leaders lies in bringing kingdom influence into personal lives rather than allowing human self-will to taint, dominate and eventually destroy the fruitfulness of local congregations. No trite task! After all, ministry would be relatively easy if we didn’t have to deal with people and their often messy lives!
So just how do we bring change? That is indeed the million dollar question!
One option is to establish a code of rules to modify people’s behavior. This avenue DOES NOT work and in the long run leads to spiritual immaturity and even more sinful behavior.
Another common approach is to teach people from a distance with the hope that they will choose to implement what’s been taught. This works to some degree, but when personal interaction with mature believers is lacking, only a handful will be transformed.
Ephesians Chapter 4 stresses not only the importance of the unity of the Spirit, but (combined with other New Testament principles) helps to lay out the general Biblical pattern necessary to achieve that unity. This involves those in the five-fold ministries (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) not just caring for, but also teaching and equipping the members of the Body of Christ in a community environment. God-breathed wisdom. Holy Spirit empowered anointing. Insightful Biblical instruction. Personal modeling and mentorship. Authentic relationships. All are necessary in order to grow mature and healthy church members.
There is no one single key for church unity, but when all of these factors come into play, the church body begins to mature, each member finds their place, and all serve to build one another up in the love of God. All in all a beautiful, albeit messy process.
Is such maturity difficult to achieve? Without question! Is it possible? Absolutely!
The average small church is unable to have all of the Ephesians 4 ministry gifts on site, but today’s technologies enable the production of powerful teaching resources to aid in the maturing process. As long as the use of these resources is combined with the mature input of local leaders through real relationships, growth is sure to happen!