I was listening to a lecture the other day by Francis Chan, a very popular nondenominational preacher. He was talking about how he and his family went to china to do some mission work because he wanted to help Christians who were in persecution. While he was there with them, he asked them to tell about a time they were socially or physically abused.
They looked at him like he was strange. Francis finally put together that the reason they looked at him so strange was because they have been abused countless times. They didn’t know which story to tell. Finally, one of them got up and talked about how three cops came in while about 20 of them were worshiping and all of the Christians started running in opposite directions screaming “you can’t scare me with heaven!” Then a girl told her last persecution story (from about two days earlier) where she was thanking God that she was skinny enough to hide between two walls as cops were beating Christians in the next room. The stories went on and on.
They then asked Francis about persecution in the states. He told them, other than a few words here and there, persecution doesn’t really exist. They looked confused and said “but I thought Jesus said that if we love Him there would persecution?” Francis went on to talk about how we have songbooks, buildings, paid preachers, church buses, gyms, signs, sound systems, pews, youth ministers, worshiper leaders, and even business cards. We wear nice “church clothes” and have specific “worship times.” If we don’t like preaching at one church, there are likely dozens more in a five-mile radius, so we just pick a different one. If we don’t like the singing there, we will just pick another one. If the leadership makes us mad, we just find a new leadership. The persecuted Christians began laughing hysterically. They thought he was joking! There is NO WAY that Christians would act in such a way. That’s against everything Jesus and the apostles ever taught about the church family!
These abused Christians have a point. We are extremely blessed in our country when it comes to our religious freedom, but we act spoiled when the smallest thing in government or in our congregation doesn’t go our way. I’m not suggesting we not stand up for what we believe in, but rather, trust in the One we claim believe. When it comes to our government, as valuable as our vote is, God is in control (John 18, Rom. 13, 1 Peter 2). We are citizens of a kingdom that transcends time and space. When it comes to preferences and disagreements in our congregation, let us remember to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you are unhappy with the leaders, tell them about it in love and then be a leader yourself. If you are unhappy with a speaker, tell them about it and be a speaker yourself. When there is disagreement, we should approach the manner in a civil way. 1) Ask yourself if it really matters concerning the cause of Christ (remember the persecuted Christians when you ask yourself this question). 2) If it does, ask yourself if you have talked, in a loving way, to the individuals in charge of this ministry or action (Matt. 18). 3) Read Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 and see if you can live and work with a disagreement. 4) Ask yourself if you are investing yourself into the church as much as you should.
We should not treat our neighborhood congregations like a “church buffet.” Instead, we should work as a family and see what is REALLY important. – Jesse