It’s a Messy Business      

I love gatherings with people who serve in cross-cultural ministry, because you don’t have to explain yourself. They understand you and don’t question when letting out an exasperated sigh over the trials of church planting. They don’t question, because they know—Church planting is messy.

If Church life wasn’t messy, we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament

When I find myself struggling over some aspect of what we know as the Body of Christ or the Church, I thank God for giving us a letter-writing evangelist named Paul. Without those letters, I think there would be even fewer church planters and pastors around. I’m grateful that we have those letters to remind us that whatever we might be aggravated over is nothing new.

Paul wrote to keep people from complaining, competing, getting mixed up with bad theology or running after the wrong things or people. Ultimately, he wrote to remind the church to focus on Jesus and to love each other as Christ loved the church.

Unity and Diversity: How to have both?

My late husband and I started churches with everyone from the same background, ethnically and religiously, and we’ve started churches with multiple nationalities and religious backgrounds. You know what I found out? You still had problems maintaining unity and encouraging diversity.

How do we maintain unity? Preach Christ—Who he is, what he did, and how he changes lives.

How do we celebrate diversity? Teach about the Body of Christ—The importance of each part, the spiritual gifts that come with the indwelling of the Spirit, and how to use each gift to the building up of the Body.

Can we have both? Absolutely. Does it come easily? Hardly. Is it worth maintaining? For sure!

My husband used to welcome people to our church by saying, “Everyone works here!” When each person is invested in the growth of the church’s purpose, then a healthy balance can be maintained. When some want to be served, rather than serve, then trouble starts. That’s why it takes effort on the part of church planters and elders to teach believers how to recognize and exercise their own personal role in the church.

Comparison and Envy: The greatest enemy to a healthy church.

Church gets messy when believers allow personal preferences to skew their view of others within the Body. Eyes are off Christ and on self when phrases like, “Brother John led music better than this guy,” or “Did you see their new car? We could have used some of that money for VBS.” The Apostle Paul spoke harshly against such words of comparison or envy, knowing they come from pride and other selfish sins.

Attitudes like this can be addressed in two ways: Teaching about how we should live and love as followers of Christ, and speaking truth back to statements that cut down others. Both take courage and consistency, but they can be addressed and dealt with.

Christ loves the Church—Warts and all

I long ago stopped trying to solve all the problems I found in church. I did my best to speak truth and Scripture into specific situations, but ultimately, I knew that the success or failure of any one Body of Christ did not rest on my shoulders. Sometimes I had to just step back and let them work out the issues on their own, under new leadership. I knew where my role was, and I worked hard to not overstep the limits of what I should be doing.

Whether I stayed in the fight or stepped back, I never stop praying for the churches where I’ve lived and served. Each one has a unique role in reaching the people of their communities, and each one has unique issues they need to deal with. I’ve never been in a “perfect” church, but I do know that praying for each church changes my attitude toward them.

We are all just cracked pots through whom Christ shines his light to a dark and dying world. When cracked pots get together, the light grows even stronger to his glory. It’s messy, but it’s glorious at the same time. This is the Church Jesus will return to raise.

Hallelujah! What a day that will be.

Grace and Peace

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