Weddings are always filled with adventure and drama. You know what I’m talking about. Stress and emotions combine to produce a potentially explosive concoction. Invariably, nerves begin to wear thin.
But then something magical happens. The wedding actually occurs. All the tense moments evaporate in the midst of the celebration. We laugh and cry, hug and kiss. We are family and, despite our imperfections, we deeply love one another. That’s how families ought to act.
It’s how churches ought to act as well.
Romans 14 and 15 give six secrets for becoming a loving church:
1. Recognize the significance of every person
“By what you eat, do not destroy that one for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15b)
Each member is significant in the kingdom of God. They may be obnoxious. They may be immature. They may be disagreeable. But Christ died for them. If my behavior destroys a brother for whom Christ died, then I am putting myself in higher regard than God himself. What right do I have to hurt people Christ died for? The answer is: I don’t have the right.
2. Focus on what’s really important
“Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:16-17)
The essence of Christianity is not external but internal. External things are important, but infinitely more important is to be changed from the inside out. The internal things are generally much more important than what is happening externally. By focusing on the internal — eternally important — we can then put up with a lot of external quirks, faults and mistakes. This is especially important in any Church Revitalization effort. Most churches don’t split over major issues. They split over trivial, foolish little things. And Paul is making the plea: Don’t be sidetracked by minor issues.
3. Build each other up
“So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” (Romans 14:19)
Life is tough, and there are enough discouraging people in the world. Church revitalization needs an army of encouragers!
4. A Limit your liberty
“Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats.” (Romans 14:20)
Other people’s souls and the well-being of the church are far more important than my liberty. It strikes at the core of what church is all about. It is not about pleasing me or you. It’s about helping us to become more and more like Jesus.
5. Do not insist that everyone agree on every issue
“Do you have faith? Keep it to yourself before God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” (Romans 14:22)
If we are going to keep the main thing the main thing, at times we are going to have to agree to disagree. Paul says, on these disputable matters, keep them between you and the Lord. No matter what you do, there will always be those who will be upset. You’ll never be able to please them especially as it relates to Church Revitalization. In that event, Paul says, “As far as it depends on you, if it is possible, live at peace with all men.”
6. Accept one another
“Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)
How did Christ accept us? Unconditionally. Non-judgmentally. No one’s acceptance is based on performance! No church will ever be perfect, but it can be healthy. My kids weren’t perfect, but they were healthy. May your church grow in love for God and one another!
Dr. Bob Brown is the Church Revitalization Specialist for the TBC. He served as a pastor in the local church for 30 years before coming to the Convention. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.