“Community between Churches”
week, we move to the third and final area of a vision for our church as adopted by the church leadership several
months ago. We hope to spend only one week here, not because this
is not important, but because it is naturally flows out of and builds upon what we have already seen in our previous
study on community. We saw one reason why building authentic community
in a local church is so difficult is because it runs absolutely counter to a very strong cultural tsunami. Individualism is rampant in
This sin also persists on a larger scale.
The same pride that tries to seduce us into buying into the lie that one person in the body doesn’t need
another, also works to convince us that one local gospel-preaching church within a city has no need of other gospel-preaching
churches. This sin is rooted in our institutional pride.
It isn’t individualism but is called by other names—parochialism, provincialism or congregationalism. It
is just as opposed to the plan and purpose of God as individualism is on a person to person level.
The fact is—if we are to reach the
We often tend to read the Bible exclusively through only the lens of our personal walk with God, without considering how it applies on another larger scale. Take Philippians 2:3-4 for example. Paul writes, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We apply that almost exclusively to our individual relationships. But is there any reason why the truth in Philippians 2:3-4 should not be applied to the relationship between gospel preaching churches. Why would it be wrong to apply that truth on a larger scale within Christ’s church? “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count other churches more significant than your church. 4Let each church look not only to its own interests, but also to the interests of other churches.” So many of the verses calling us as individuals to Christ-like character also apply on a broader level from church to church.
Think about it—if God is calling us as individuals within a local church to live a certain way, then why would God not expect the church filled with individuals to not manifest that character trait as a community? What is virtuous for a single member of the body of Christ is also something local groupings of Christ’s body should seek after. What is true on a micro-level as it relates to Christian character must also be true (at least in most instances) on a macro-level.
We can see this on a negative level as well. In the letters
to the seven churches in Revelation chapter two and three, Jesus rebukes the churches
in those cities for their sins, not the individual believers. The
That’s why any vision for the future of
see ourselves not only as members of a local church community, but also as part of the larger church in the Twin
Ports, it will change how we do ministry. For instance, instead of
working only to make our church welcoming to those who are already believers, we will also begin to ask the question,
“How can God use us to help struggling churches keep their people?”
Instead of only pursuing kingdom growth through conversion growth in our own church, we will also be asking, “Is there anything we can do to help the gospel-preaching church across town
be more effective in their outreach?” This must begin
with praying for other like-minded churches, but it can and should extend beyond prayer.
In light of those truths, our leadership is committed to having an active ministry to other local churches. We desire to take the blessings God gives to us and use them to bless other gospel-preaching churches that are desirous of any help we can give them. We hope we are also willing to receive help from other churches that have been blessed in ways that can help us. One text that provides a Biblical rationale as well as truths to encourage us in this vision is in Second Corinthians chapters eight and nine. To provide some context, the Jewish believers in
Corinthians Paul gently reminds them of their commitment and encourages them to give, motivated exclusively by
the grace of God. He cites the wonderful example of the believers
Let’s begin in chapter nine, verse one. Paul says, “Now
it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints,
2for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people
9As it is written, "He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
The broad truth as it relates to our topic this morning is simply that
the apostle actively encourages the believers in
in this budget year, our church is giving $1800 to help fund a Christ-centered substance abuse recovery ministry
at Lincoln Park Community church in the
But it’s not only or even primarily financial support smaller churches or recent church plants need. They need sound equipment and overhead projectors and laptops and computer software that we and other larger church no longer use. They need curriculum and perhaps most of all; they need people and information resources. For instance, smaller churches may not have all the musical talent required to put together a praise team. We could send some of our people on temporary loan to those churches to help out and train up others in the church to take their place after a few weeks. Another example is our AWANA ministry. Currently, our AWANA ministry is helping other churches by providing a quality club program for many of their kids they are not currently able to resource. We will seek to offer help to some of these churches to start their own club programs, as our leaders consult with and help lay out a vision for AWANA.
example is in the area of new local church plants. In the past few
months, I have been asked by two theologically strong, well-grounded new church planting pastors in
Two more ways this ministry of helping other churches honors God are found in verse 10. There Paul says, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” A second way this ministry honors God is as we give to other churches, God shows his faithful provision to meet our own needs. One obvious question raised by this ministry of helping churches is, “What about us?” “How can we afford to loan our people and equipment—how can we afford to give money to other churches and still maintain our own ministry?” It’s a good question and the first answer is—we must give wisely and be led by the Holy Spirit. We must be selective about who we help and how we help them in the same way we are careful about what missionaries we support as a church. We do not support every missionary who asks for help. The ministry in question must be consistent with our vision of God, the church and our ministry to the Twin Ports. But as we pray and seek God and give sacrificially to help other churches, we have this promise from Paul that God will take care of us.
the Corinthians that God would supply their needs as they help the
way this inter-church ministry honors God is in the last phrase of verse 10.
Paul addresses the Corinthians about their ministry to the church in
what Paul is speaking of in verse ten. He is saying that as the Corinthians
joyfully give to the saints in
A fourth way God is honored through this ministry to other churches is in verse 14. Paul is speaking about the Jewish believers’ response to the Corinthians generosity. He says, “while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.” Paul says that as we give to churches, a strong bond is created between the helping church and the church being helped. As we help other churches, there is a longing—a strong yearning for our church that is created by that ministry. In a day where the evangelical church is too often marked by local churches that covertly compete against each other, steal sheep, wage turf wars and engage in heated debates about worship styles and philosophies of ministries, what a cup of cold water this is. God is much honored as the world sees one church showing deep affection for another church and praying for them in response to the ministry they have received from that church. This vision of inter-church affection should excite all of us who live in a community where there has been so little church unity in the past.
Finally, God is honored through this church-to-church ministry as we see in verses 11-12. Paul says, “You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” Not only does this ministry supply the needs of the saints, but it honors God because it overflows in many thanksgivings to God. The church or churches that receive our ministry to them will energetically thank God for it. God is praised and given the glory for his provision through churches. What a joy it is for us to know that we as a church can be used by God to spur other churches onto thanksgiving for his provision. There are few higher privileges in the kingdom than to be the conduit through which people give thanks to God for his goodness.
What a wonderful vision for our church. Instead of parasitically sucking resources away from smaller churches, as larger churches can easily do—we can reach out and out of the abundant blessing we have received, bless other churches. What a glorious truth--to know that God can take what he is doing in our church and our church plants and multiply those blessings to other churches toward the goal of reaching the Twin Ports for Christ. May God give us the grace to get behind this and honor God in our relationships with other gospel preaching churches.
Page last modified on 7/29/2007
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