Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who Is in Charge?

If we are to avoid simply promoting the church organization rather than following God, we have to ask who is in charge in the church. The answer is Christ (Colossians 1:18; 2:19; Ephesians 1:22,23). The church is Christ's body, His visible manifestation in the world (1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:15,16), and He is working through it to accomplish His purposes (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 3:6,7). And everything we accomplish is through His power (2 Corinthians 3:5,6; Colossians 1:29; Philippians 2:13). God has not left us on our own to figure out how to do His work. Much less has He left us to use His church to accomplish our purposes. Rather, every decision we make should be made with the conscious awareness that it is Christ who is really in charge, and our goal is to be His people, doing His will.

Much of the struggle in the Christian church comes from people trying to exert their power over others. We see leaders versus congregations, one leader against another, factions striving against against one another. Realizing that Christ is in charge is not a magic formula for harmony. We can convince ourselves that our plans are Christ's plans. But it is the necessary first step. Leaders are meant to be followed (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13;  Ephesians 4:11-14), but also meant to be servants (Matthew 20:24-28; Luke 22:24-27; 1 Peter 5:1-4). It is important to test everything (Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:8,9; 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22), but also to realize we do not have all the answers (1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:1-3; 4:3-5). But most fundamentally, we must learn to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-11; Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:8-10).

One thing that stands in the way of this is the search for the silver bullet to fix all the problems of the church. Because if I am convinced I have that quick fix, I will be tempted to use any means to make it happen. If I am a leader, I will bend every effort to make things go my way. If I am a member of the congregation, I will attempt to prevent the leaders from straying from the path or look for new leaders. It does not matter whether this panacea is a new thing we are trying to introduce or an old thing we are trying to preserve. But if we recognize there is no such magic formula, it makes a difference. There will still be certain boundaries we will not cross and certain positions we will not accept. But we are will be less likely to make mountains out of minor differences. And even major differences can be faced in a matter-of-fact manner. For if I recognize that Christ is at work in His church, I will still feel it is my obligation to work for what is best. But I will be less likely to take the whole fate of the church on my shoulders, with disastrous results.   

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