Real cowboys from the American frontier, both the good guys and the bad guys, had no interest in the big, bulky Stetsons that everyone associates with them. Contrary to our more modern cowboys, the most popular headgear among 19th century gunslingers was the bowler, sometimes called a derby.
Many people have an idea in their minds of what the church looks like, but it just might be the case that the image doesn’t match scriptural teaching.
The “church” in the Bible is a singular, unified group of God’s people spread out across the globe in the form of multiple likeminded congregations. Though the people are God’s— they’re still people. People have problems. The difference between His family and the world, though, is that there’s a solution and a hope for His own.
When New Testament Christians claim that there’s one church they don’t mean there’s only one group of people who have all the answers and can do no wrong. They simply acknowledge the Biblical truth that God made plans for only one church and that plan had been in motion before the creation of the world (Eph. 3.10-11).
The New Testament is largely made up of letters that were written to correct and admonish our natural human tendencies. When these things are left unchecked and unbridled they produce more pain and destruction, which can clearly be seen all around us. For most, the product of sin is self-evident but the power of the Savior isn’t— and that’s where the church comes in. The main function of the church is to seek, save, and keep the saved saved. This is done by walking, speaking, and acting like Jesus. The form and function of His family is simple because God’s goal is to save as many as possible (Jn. 3.16-17). The New Testament church is meant to be the hands, feet, and mouth of God. The church is to work, walk, and speak only the things He would and that’s only possible if a group of people are living by His instruction. Since God only wrote one book, there’s only one manual. Since following the instructions will produce one church family then there’s only one church. In the same way you can assembly an entertainment system wrong by incorrectly following the plans, you can also assemble the church wrong. There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way and one needs only to reference His instructions to be certain.
The 2022 college football season has gone, and the Georgia Bulldogs have repeated as national champions. Some argue that our national admiration of sports numbs us to the deterioration of our society. (Think ancient Rome and circuses and bloody spectacles.) However, there are also critics within the college football fan base who believe that the current method of crowning a national champion is unfair. The latter is more a matter of sour grapes. But when I consider paid college football players and transfer portals that foster a sense of entitlement among four- and five-star recruits, I find it difficult not to listen to some criticism.
As Kirby Smart’s teams have improved over the years, so has their emphasis on teamwork and selflessness. They’ve made it a permanent part of their game strategy, and as a result, they consistently give it their all in most contests. ESPN sports pundits marveled at Kirby’s ability to make his team believe they were undervalued and disrespected despite being labeled the favorites. But, as the adage goes, the proof is in the pudding. Many athletes wanted to help pave the way to victory for their teammates. That is to say, rather than dwelling on how many times they had possession of the ball or how many big plays they had made, they celebrated the accomplishments of their teammates. Nolan Smith, a senior, is a prime example of this because his senior season was cut short due to an injury. After his stellar play on last year’s national championship team, he was eligible to enter the NFL draft. But he returned to Georgia for his senior year. However, his injury hasn’t stopped him from acting as a de facto coach for the rest of the team. Marvin Jones, Jr., one of Smith’s admirers, says he wants to fill the void Smith will leave after graduation.
Some readers might assume I’m just trying to boast about “my” Georgia Bulldogs. Trust me; there’s more to it than that. An even more valuable group needs the same sense of teamwork and selflessness. Yes, I’m referring to the church. Like sports teams, the church requires teamwork and a selfless attitude to work together for the same mission. Paul writes that each church member contributes to its growth by fulfilling their role (Ephesians 4.16). One aspect of this role is encouraging and supporting each other (1 Thessalonians 5.11). Paul even went so far as to say that we should defer to our weaker brothers’ scruples to pursue peace and edification (Romans 14.19). While it is true that we will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14.12), we must focus on the “team.” Jesus loved the church so much that He gave His life for her (Ephesians 5.25). As a result, we are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2.5ff). And the early church had its counterparts to people like Nolan Smith, most notably Andrew and Barnabas, two men about whom less is known but who undoubtedly had a significant impact on the early church. These two provided the selflessness and humility the church needs today by following the Lord’s call and putting aside their desires.
Remember, we are not competing for a stylized black football atop a golden pedestal. Instead, we seek an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9.25). As a result, our devotion to the church must outweigh our enthusiasm for a football team on any autumn Saturday, especially in the South.
Around our house, my wife has pictures with different sayings, like – “In this kitchen we lick the spoon”, “Blessed”, “Gather”, and “Give Thanks”. As much as I make fun of these light-hearted sayings, one of them caught my attention this week. It says:
“In this house we – say please and thank you, never give up, love one another, show respect, think good thoughts, say I’m sorry, give second chances, sing out loud, try to do better, give hugs, are a family.”
I couldn’t help but think about how this not only applies to my personal family, but to my church family as well. Obviously we could take each one of these phrases and spend time comparing them to our church family, but I want to spend time on just a few.
#1: Love one another and show respect.
John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Loving one another is a command from God and acts as a type of evangelism to the world. We should love in this family.
#2: Say I’m sorry and give second chances.
In Luke 15:20-24, we read about this happening in between the prodigal son and his father. In verse 21 it says, “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
Not only did the father forgive his son, but he gave him a second chance. Verse 24 says, “For this my son was dead, and now is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate.”
The church family should be one where we feel comfortable enough to say we are sorry and humble enough to give second chances.
#3: We are a family.
Acts 2:44-47 gives a perfect picture of what the New Testament church family should look like. These new Christians were helping each other, spending time together, and praising God with one another. They were a family, just like we are today.
If you aren’t apart of this family yet, now is the time!
Acts 20:18 says, “And when they came to him, he said to them ‘You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia…” The apostle Paul gave of his time to the church. If a preacher doesn’t give his time to the church, then he is doomed to fail the congregation.
What is a preacher that does not give of himself? First he is selfish, and secondly he is not treating the Bride of Christ with the respect and care needed. Notice that Paul says “the whole time,” not just “most of the time” or “some of the time.” Paul was fully devoted to those in Ephesus. He was a man that was church-minded. This was a man that showed focus, and likewise we must show this focus and determination to make the church as strong as it can be. A proficient preacher proffers personal time for others. It takes a selfless person to give up time for the brethren.
Paul uses the Greek word epistamai which means “to acquire information about something, know, be acquainted with” (BDAG 380). Paul knew for certain that the elders knew who he truly was. The same must be true for the preacher and the congregation. So what does this mean? This means as ministers we must be transparent. The elders should know what we are doing to help build and strengthen the church, and so should the members.
When it is all boiled down we see that a minister, in the most simplistic of terms, is to be a servant. He should be a servant of others in the church, and most of all he should be a servant of God. If the preacher is not a servant and is not setting that example then how are the other members in the congregation supposed to look up to him and follow him? Will they be servants? Most likely they will follow the example of the minister. We, as ministers, in many cases set the standard. We can inspire, or we can harm the church. One thing we should never forget is that our influence and example can be some of our best tools. Are we excited about God’s word and work? We should be showing that and lighting the fires of every member in the church.
Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, edited by Frederick W. Danker, et. al., Third Edition, U of Chicago Press, 2000. Logos Bible Software, 13.0, Faithlife Corp, 2022.
Many of us were startled by an automatic alert sent to our phones last Saturday morning, alerting us of potential violence and danger in our usually serene city. The reason was a planned protest and counterprotest, a racially-charged event centering on a horrible incident that happened almost seventy years ago in another state. Predictably, it stirred up some division and exposed extreme and racially-prejudiced views from some.
The world prefers to keep people divided on the basis of race, gender, political affiliation, and the like, and uses such tools as identity politics (Brittanica defines this as “political or social activity by or on behalf of a racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other group, usually undertaken with the goal of rectifying injustices suffered by group members because of differences or conflicts between their particular identity or misconceptions of their particular identity and the dominant identity or identities of a larger society”) and tribal alliances. Subject to human biases, emotions, and subjectivism, easy to misjudge and assume others’ motives and intentions, it becomes a massive roadblock to oneness and unity.
But we would expect no less from the world. Who is the prince and ruler of this world? He is a murderer (John 8:44), a devourer (1 Pet. 5:8), a sinner (1 Jn. 3:8), and a deceiver (2 Co. 11:3,14). Chaos, disorder, and division serve his purposes quite effectively.
In the midst of such mayhem, the Lord has the church in this world to be a beacon and light (Mat. 5:13-16). What an opportunity we have in the midst of the world’s divisiveness to show a people united on the foundation of truth, regardless of our race, background, education level, economic strata, or any other way the world wants to divide us. We won’t compromise the eternal truth of God’s Word, but we will stand together on that even however difficult or unpopular. We will live by 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” We will honor His objective and follow His blueprint to achieve it.
When an onlooking world gets a glimpse of us in action, red, yellow, black, and white, working in love, harmony, and acceptance of one another, they will find an alternative to the world’s hate. When they see the poor esteemed and accepted as much as the well-to-do (Js. 2:1-8), they will see a bright alternative to a cold, status-conscious world. If the church will be the church, we can help the world–one searching person at a time. But the world will always be the world. We should not expect them to show us the way to be one. Their ruler wants chaos. Ours wants peace.
Gratefulness is defined as warm and deep appreciation for kindness received; gratitude or thankfulness. Something that my family has to work on continually is an attitude of gratefulness. In today’s world, teaching our children gratefulness can sometimes be challenging not only for them but also for us. Have you ever met individuals who constantly complain and seem ungrateful? More specifically, have you ever met Christians who constantly complain and seem ungrateful? I would dare to say most of us try to avoid certain people because you know they are probably going to be complaining about something. Regarding church, do you ever catch yourself complaining about elders’ decisions, something the preacher might have said, or the temperature in the church building? I know I do sometimes! So, what causes a spirit of complaining or ungratefulness? Could it be a lack of faith? Maybe selfishness? In my opinion, they both can cause ungratefulness. For example, we have several accounts in the Old Testament of the Israelites complaining! In Numbers 21:5 we read, “They spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” God had just delivered them Egyptian bondage and they still showed a lack of faith and ungratefulness.
Sometimes our selfishness can create an attitude of ungratefulness. We sometimes just want our way or want more and more which can lead to a complaining or ungrateful attitude. There’s no doubt God has blessed our country economically but sometimes that may lead to contentment problems. We have to be careful not to fall in the trap of wanting more and more. Contentment can help produce gratefulness. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” We know that Paul was in prison when he wrote this. Can you imagine being in prison and speaking of contentment? Then what about us? Surely, we can learn to be content and grateful for the things that we have by Paul’s example.
On top of everything else God doesn’t seem to be a big fan of complaining nor did He take it lightly. In Numbers 11:1 we read, “And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.” Grumbling can be a problem. None of us are above the temptation to murmur or complain, but we need to learn from the book of Numbers that this is a serious issue with God. He sent fire to consume some, swallowed up others with the earth, and sent fiery serpents among the people, all because of complaining!
The Bible also has many verses that touch on the subject of gratitude.
1 Chronicles 16:8 says…..Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
Psalm 7:17 says….. I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says….Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 3:15 says….Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Those are just a few examples, but with having so many verses regarding gratitude there’s no doubt how God feels about it. If anybody in this world should be grateful it should be Christians! God has shown us so much love, grace, and has blessed us both materially and spiritually beyond measure and we should be expressing a spirit of gratitude living as a Christian! We as Christians should being showing gratitude throughout all aspects of our life and let our light shine! If we go around complaining or being ungrateful what kind of example are we setting and how can we expect to evangelize to the lost? They’re response might be, “I don’t want any part of that religion”!
Not only should we show gratitude toward God, we should show gratitude toward our fellow man. Some simple acts of gratitude could be just saying thank you, a thank you card, email, or text. Occasionally, I will receive a thank you note or message from a fellow church member for something that I didn’t think was a big deal but it still meant a lot to receive that.
I would challenge all of us to keep working hard towards a grateful attitude. If you have a moment where you lapse, there are many scriptures to study regarding this subject. Let’s concentrate on the things God has given us not the things we don’t have. Let’s stay focused on the big picture which is our Heavenly home. Having a grateful attitude pleases our Father and is contagious. After all, would you rather fellowship with grateful or ungrateful people? Be careful, as they say misery loves company!
One of the most chilling phrases to church leadership might be, “a complaint arose” (Acts 6:1). Unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or feelings of unfairness all threaten distraction and difficulty among the body of believers. We can quickly break down this problem this way:
The quibble. The Hellenistic Jews were being overlooked in the daily serving of food in the Jerusalem church (1).
The quandary. Who should take care of this problem? The apostles responded, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables” (2). The proposal ultimately allows them to do just that (4-7).
The qualifications. The apostles recommend finding seven men from among them, “men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” (3). The people chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas” (5).
The quelling. “The statement found approval with the whole congregation” (5). The people were able to get back to the business of spreading the word and increasing the number of disciples (7).
Every problem we face among us in congregations can be settled the same way today. Identify the problem, the biblical solution, and the right people to address it, then peace and success follow. Never again do we read about this problem arising within the Jerusalem church.
It is interesting to see that the men who were chosen to deal with a physical or material problem were spiritual men. Stephen, one of the “table waiters,” is described as “full of grace and power” (8), a man “with the wisdom and the Spirit” (10), even a man described as having a “face like the face of an angel” (15). These opponents of Christianity are trying to undermine and put down the growth of Christianity (7), and they are willing to go to any lengths to do so (11-14). Yet, Stephen, who has already proven his worth by his compassionate, efficient handling of the Jerusalem church’s internal issue, is able to go on the offensive in sharing the Word.
Acts six does not call these men who wait tables “deacons,” but there are some strong parallels. They are both servants (6:2; 1 Tim. 3:8). They both needed to meet spiritual qualifications (6:3; 1 Tim. 3:8-12). They both could “obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” by serving well (6:8ff; 1 Tim. 3:13).
Who does God want to utilize to solve the practical dilemmas that threaten the church’s unity? Spiritual men, servant-hearted men, and skillful men! Men like Stephen and Philip, who are multitalented–humble enough to get their hands dirty and holy enough to get the gospel out to those in need of it.
How do you get along with people you don’t have anything in common with?
I read an article on this very topic. It was a parenting article that was geared towards helping parents build a relationship with their kids. Honestly it was useless. Bottom line was “just love and accept them and show them you are willing and open to change.” This article teaches what most of the world is pushing for– “love and acceptance.”
If you don’t morally agree with someone, do you just accept what they do? If you have nothing in common with them, do you just pick up some of their hobbies? These questions are important for the Christian to answer because our lives should be based on building relationships: Relationships in the world (so that we can hopefully save souls) and relationships in the church (so that we can have unity and growth).
It’s no secret that the world is different from those in the church. They act differently, they think differently, and they speak differently. The world at its core is driven by sin and selfishness. The Christian is driven by a fear and love for God and His word. Our motivation is different, and our view of sin is different. No one in the church or even in the world, if they are honest, will argue that we are the same. With that in mind, we need to ask a very important question. How should a Christian Interact with the world? There are two extremes that we should avoid: Acting like everything is fine and treating everyone as a friend. And acting as if we are holier than the world and wanting nothing to do with them.
The Christian life is balanced. We need to find the perfect balance between loving the world, but also having a clear set of morals that keeps us from joining them in sin. At its core, all of mankind has a sin problem, and God loves every person and wants us to be saved. So how should we interact with the world? God in His wisdom knew that we would struggle with this problem, so through His inspired Word, He tells us how we are to act. In Romans 12, Paul begins a section dedicated to the Christian and their relationships. In Romans 12:17-13:14, Paul talks about our relationship with the world.
When it comes to our relationships and interactions in the world, Paul gives us five tips to help us in this task:
Don’t Treat Them the Way They Treat You (v. 17)
“Repay no one evil for evil,”
Be Respectful (v. 17)
“but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”
Seek Peace When Possible (v. 18)
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”
Don’t Take Revenge (v. 19)
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
Overcome Evil With Good (20-21)
“To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The danger we face as Christians is that we can let the world rub off on us. In trying to get along with the world, we may become like the world. But keep in mind, God doesn’t accept the world as they are; there must be repentance and change. In our interactions we need to remember Who we are trying to please. And be cautious so as to not become like those we are trying to save.