3 Ways Christians Don’t Love The Church
By Erik Bennett, April 20, 2016
Today’s post is a confession and a plea for forgiveness. I need to confess that while I have tried to show love to my local church, I have largely ignored the Church (Universal). I want to apologize to my brothers and sisters in Christ because I have not loved you or been there for you in your times of need. I have selfishly acted like the priest in the parable of the good Samaritan, crossing over to the other side of the road instead of loving you like I am called to do. I have no excuses, but I want you to know that I desire to change.
Let me tell you a little about my background. I grew up in independent Baptist churches, and I now pastor one. In our tradition, we take our independence seriously, and we regularly practice separation. If you speak in tongues, we separate from you. If you are an Amillennialist, we separate from you. If you are an Arminian, we separate from you. If you are too Calvinist, we separate from you. Over time I have come under conviction that I am wrong, and it is sinful to separate myself from my family in Christ.
My change in thinking has come from my study of 1 Cor. 12. For most of my adult life, I understood intellectually that this passage is speaking about the Universal Church, but I personally applied it only to my local church and the churches that are a part of my small association of like-minded, independent Baptists. Through my study, I became convicted that in not applying the principles of 1 Cor. 12 to all believers, I was like the eye telling the hand, “I don’t need you.”
Through my study, I realized that I didn’t really love the Church. In this article, I will share 3 ways Christians (myself included) don’t love the Church. I hope those who read this article will be encouraged to love and fight for the unity of the Universal Church.
We don’t Love the Church When we separate over secondary issues
1 Cor. 12:18-20 describes how the body of Christ needs each other. Jesus, in John 17:11, prays for unity in His Church. Yet in spite of these passages, we are a divided body. Even though there is instruction in Scripture to separate from those who preach a false gospel, we typically divide over much more minor issues. Disagreements between denominations are not usually over the essentials of the faith (the divinity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, salvation by grace alone through faith alone), but over secondary issues like baptism, eschatology, church government, or free will vs. election.
On a personal level, I have long allowed secondary doctrinal issues to push a wedge between me and my brothers and sisters in Christ. While I am a Baptist and I have doctrinal convictions (we should all know what we believe and why we believe it), I am learning how to love those who disagree with me. I don’t have answers yet on how it will look in my life, but I know I need to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ from different denominations (1 Cor. 12:25) as well as serve them and honor them (1 Cor. 12:26).
We don’t Love the Church when we marginalize those who disagree with us
In my family, my wife and I teach our children to be kind to each other. One of the ways we encourage kindness is to correct our children if they call each other unkind names. Yet, I have been a hypocrite because I have used unkind words and called other Christians names because they have disagreed with my doctrinal positions. As I realized my hypocrisy, I started to see examples all around me of Christians attacking and marginalizing other believers.
By our words, we imply that believers who disagree with our views are not real Christians.1 We imply they do not love God, they do not love Scripture, and they are hurting God’s work on the earth.2 We justify separating from them, yet Scripture says the body cannot be separated (1 Cor. 12:14-16). Further, Scripture says we need each other (1 Cor. 12:17). Instead of calling each other names, we should learn to celebrate the diversity of the body. We should learn to appreciate that all believers are necessary to make the body strong. We need each other and the world needs to see a radical love that draws us together and allows us to overlook our disagreements.
We Don’t Love the Church When We ignore our responsibility to serve the Body
God has given us spiritual gifts for the common good of the body of Christ (12:7), so we can care for each other (12:25). These principles about spiritual gifts apply to both our local churches and the Church Universal. When we don’t serve the body of Christ (local and Universal) with the gifts He gives, we are being selfish. When we look at church as a place to be served and entertained, but we do not want to contribute, we are taking for granted the gifts of grace God gives to us.
Many in the church today ignore the command to serve, but if we truly love the Church, we will serve her. If we truly love the body of Christ, we will care for her. If we take God’s commands seriously, we will use our gifts for the common good. The Christian community is truly not about what one can get, but how one can serve one other in love.
The last verse of 1 Cor. 12 says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way” (12:31). Paul’s “still more excellent way” is the way of love beautifully described in chapter 13. Chapters 12 and 13 show us that our service to the local church and the universal church must be marked by love. When we separate from each other, marginalize our brothers and sisters, and ignore our responsibility to serve we are not showing love. I pray that we (myself included) will choose the “still more excellent way.”
1 http://www.gty.org/blog/B131015/john-macarthur-on-the-true-legacy-of-the-charismatic-movement. In the video posted on this page, John MacArthur says, “Let me be very blunt. The true legacy of the charismatic movement around the world is false doctrine, false spiritual leadership, false church. That’s it.”
2 https://answersingenesis.org/creationism/old-earth/special-feature-hugh-ross-expose/. This article claims that Hugh Ross’ view of old earth creationism “undermines the authority of the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
(Note: It is not my intention to pick on John MacArthur or Answers in Genesis as much as to show how prevalent this type of speech is among Christians. I could have easily found examples of Christians attacking John MacArthur or Answers in Genesis in a similar manner.)