Friday, February 24, 2012

Some things are worth the struggle

Like you, I have a certain aversion for conflict in the church, especially, when the conflict is driven by low priority concerns: music, clothes, and internal committee debates.

But I do enjoy the struggle congregations go through trying to clarify their vision and mission for the sake of the gospel. Some things are worth fighting over. 

For example, Acts 15: 1-11, the gospel is bearing rich fruit in Antioch. People are coming to Jesus by the thousands but some of the Pharisees who had become believers, and who struggled with the concept of grace wanted to add to the gospel.

They believed in Jesus, but it was Jesus, plus Moses. They wanted new believers circumcised according to the Law of Moses. Their demands were not only a distraction from the mission; they were capable of destroying the mission.

In steps Peter: 
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Friends, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."

Imagine what would have happened if the herd instinct had taken over the leadership. If they all caved in to the need to get along, think the same way, and at all cost avoid conflict. The message of Christ would be tainted, rendered impotent and the revival in Antioch would have come to a screeching halt. 

I wonder how many gospel movements in churches have stopped because the leaders do not have the gumption to face conflict head on, stand on principle and stand for the gospel.

When do you take a stand? Take a stand when it is clear the gospel mission of the church is about to be sacrificed for internal, self-centered, consumerist ideals. And when you stand for gospel ideals expect to be criticized, misquoted, rejected; expect people will walk away from the mission, you may even lose your job. 

But if this is all that happens to you be encouraged. The apostles risked their lives for the sake of the gospel. Their sacrifice still does not compare to Christ's sacrifice for the sake of the world. 

So my brothers and sisters in the gospel, take a stand; bear the shame, carry the cross, stand for the gospel. Remember what Jesus said: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household? (Matthew 10:24-25 ESV)