Challenges to Community
The church has never been without its manipulators, controllers, dissenters, and faction-builders. Those who create confusion in the body of Christ display fleshly patterns that all of us are capable of practicing. To make matters worse, few of these people ever realize the corporate damage they inflict, because it is easy to justify manipulative behavior by giving it a spiritual veneer of concern for the best interests of the group.
The church at Corinth had a number of members who were killing community through their divisiveness, pride, comparison, carnality, competition, envy, criticism, immorality, lawsuits, idolatry, complaining, selfishness, and doctrinal error.
When we try to count, control, compare, and compete, we are striving to justify ourselves and our own interests rather than seeking the interests of Christ and others. In his appeal to the Philippians to pursue a unity of mind, love, spirit, and purpose, the apostle Paul exhorted them, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
This is possible only when we walk in the Spirit and derive our identity from Christ rather than the vacillating opinions of others. When we are liberated from the bondage of expectations and opinions, the ironic result is that we become capable of serving others far better. The desire to be pleasing to Christ empowers us to serve His people.
While churchmen focus on building the institution, Christ-centered people focus on loving Christ, and on building the body of believers. As a friend of mine puts it, a churchman can become chairman of the church board if he does four things:
- Gives a lot
- Attends a lot
- Supports church leadership wherever it wants to go
- Keeps his personal sin profile low enough so as not to cause embarrassment
When he is blocked or disgruntled, he casts his ultimate vote by no longer attending or giving.
Just as the fundamental threat to community is self-centeredness, the vital builder of community is other-centeredness. In the final analysis, hell is self-centered and isolational; heaven is other- centered and relational. Corporate spirituality carries a high price tag because it requires us to go against the grain of our fallen instinct for privatization and control. But Scripture teaches us that it is more than worth the cost, since the greatest experiences of joy take place when they are shared with others. Joy quickly atrophies when it is hoarded.
The spiritual life is not simply a matter between an individual and God; it was never meant to be privatized or individualistic, but to be shared in community with the people of God. Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is revealed and expressed in the ways we relate to the people around us.
Taken from Ken Boa's Handbook to Spiritual Growth
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