In my previous post called “A Weekend with Friends“, I mentioned two very special friends of ours: Eric and Alice. Eric has written an exceptional blog post called “If I had church exactly the way I wanted it“. In this post, Eric lists his convictions about many aspects of doctrine and practice. He lists exactly how he would like to see a church operate. Then, he makes this very wise and thoughtful observation:
The problem with this particular church, which is exactly the way I would want it, is that it doesn’t exist. In fact, if I tried to plant a church like this, I would probably end up the only member (I do hope my family would join, so I guess that would make five of us).
Because people make up the church, we will have differences of opinion, different comfort levels, and different preferences. If you even put ten people together, you will get hundreds of different combinations of desires about the issues raised above.
So what are we to do? What did Christ want for His church? In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
How do we do this? How can we all be “one” when we have different desires about how things should go in the church?
The only conclusion I can come to is that we be dogmatic about the heart of the gospel. In all other issues, let’s be humble about what we teach, let’s strive for unity whenever possible, and let’s be willing to sacrifice our own desires for the good of the body.
This kind of thinking is a breath of fresh air for me. Eric recognizes that the church will never be exactly the way that we want it. However, as long as we are connected to brothers and sisters in Christ through the Holy Spirit – and none of us are living in unrepentant sin – then we should give up our own preferences and opinions in deference to those we love.
I have many convictions when it comes to the church. And, when I gather with brothers and sisters in Christ on Sunday morning or at other times, things are not always that way that I would prefer. But, those “things” are not what draws me to gather with these people. Instead, my focus should be on loving God through loving and serving those people who he has placed around me.
This is difficult. In fact, it is completely impossible for me, on my own, to give up my preferences and yield to another. I thank God that he does not leave me to do the impossible by myself. Instead, he indwells me, convicts me, empowers me to do the impossible – even giving up my preferences and opinions in the interest of prefering others above myself – even when the church is not exactly the way I want it.