It seems to me, the main purpose of a Church organization is to
A) seek and save the lost
B) nurture the growth of the saved so that they might live a Spirit filled life.
While your mileage and opinion may vary, it seems most healthy Christian church organizations (at least on the outside) focus on the Great Commission and/or "being the body," which seems to jive with my two points above.
However, one thing that's struck me more and more lately is the litany of denominations and factions who insist their way is right and others are wrong. I've actually heard that some churches argue over how people are baptized, how prayers are sent heavenward and, the one that shocks me the most, some church leaders actually tell their congregations not to read the bible as they're ill-equipped to process the information for themselves.
While I have my own opinions on each of these topics, especially the last one, I wonder where the line is drawn when engaging someone over this from a countering point of view? I've heard the logic espoused that those who make such statements are false teachers and their word should be combated at all costs. But, who is to say which side is right and which wrong when it comes to something such as the method of praying? Or how new believers are baptized?
Well, with that in mind, it's no wonder this passage jumped out at me today when I was doing some study (bolding by me for emphasis).
1 Corinthians 3
The Church and Its Leaders
1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
When one church denounces another across the street in those cute little marquee wars we've all seen in chain emails (you know the ones, where church on the east side of the street says "All dogs go to heaven" and the west side church says "No they don't, read your bible"), are they not simply showing the rest of the world how unspiritual they really are? Are we not doing the same when we denounce the practices of another denomination, another behavior of faith? When we speak ill of another church?
At what point are we doing more harm than good by letting the unsaved see that we cannot even agree on how to worship or how to declare your faith?
I recently read a long, laborious blog post from a gentleman declaring that any true Christ followers should avoid Texas Governor Rick Perry's giant Day of Prayer in Houston that occurred a few weeks ago. In the posting, the man reasoned that no true believer should attend the festival due to Perry's affiliation with a Church group from Kansas founded years ago. That doesn't make much sense, does it? Well, the poster went on to cite all his reasons for denouncing this group, most of which read like the Pharisees presenting their case against Jesus… a lot of ins and outs regarding the law and how we should worship. If the man had a concise point of logic to back his insistence that we all avoid the meeting, I failed to find it.
While I'm certainly not siding with Perry or passing judgment on the poster for that matter, the fact that there were tens of thousands of people gathered together on US soil to worship our God seems to have far more potential positives than negatives. Urging people to avoid it, the very people who might instill the event with the true Spirit, hardly seems Christ-like. On the contrary, it seems like behavior rooted in fear and manifesting in reactionary mistrust. Not everything is a nefarious plot to steal your soul. And, even if it is, no thief can open the hand of Jesus. So, why act out of fear? Jesus tells us not to fear over and over again in the bible. Aren't we listening?
I have no illusions the entirety of Christian believers will ever unite and set aside the worldly behaviors such as those mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1, and evidenced all around us every moment of every day, but, it does give me pause and make me question what thoughts I'll entertain and allow to pass my lips regarding how others worship.
What do you think?