Harmony In The Church
By Lois J. Stucky
Reading Henry Blackaby’s article, "Pitfalls of a Leader," causes us to feel more concern than ever to uphold in prayer the spiritual leaders of Christ’s blood-bought Church. And as well as praying for the leaders, we as members of the congregation should see ourselves in need of watchfulness against pitfalls that bring reproach and ruin to the Church, precious to the heart of Christ.
Take, for example, Christ’s admonition in John 13:20, which Blackaby applies effectively to leaders: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." The "Verily, verily…" with which our Lord introduces this assertion is an alert that this is a firm "so be it" of God to which we need to give earnest heed.
As members of the congregation, we ought to ask, "How do we receive the leaders whom God sends to our local church or raises up from within the church?" The Apostle Paul urged the Thessalonian Christians concerning those who labored among them and were over them in the Lord and admonished them, "to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake" (5:12-13). Another version says to "hold them in highest regard in love."
When God chose the Levites to do the work of the Temple, He spoke of them as "gifts" He was giving to Moses and Aaron. How blessed it is when we can receive our leaders as "gifts" from God Himself to assist us in the worship and service of God.
In turn, we of the congregation can seek to be "gifts" to the leader, helpers in any way we are fitted to be. Researchers tell us that being a church leader is one of the most stressful of all occupations. Every leader who is a husband and father has a God-given (and welcomed, we trust) responsibility to provide for his family and to nurture them in the Christian life, and he dare not, nor does he want to, shirk that. Added to this is the care of the church of which he is leader, and what multiple demands that puts upon him! Might we of the congregation avoid putting unnecessary burdens on him, like mediating our squabbles!
Rather, might we seek to lift the burden the leader bears. We perhaps do not know the extent to which church leaders long to see greater spirituality in the congregation, and to experience a much greater moving of the Holy Spirit within the churches of which they are leaders. Coming alongside the pastor in prayer for these longings will mean much in bringing them into being. As a congregation we can come to church services spiritually-minded, built up through regular daily devotions. We can keep the way clear between ourselves and others in the congregation, so that we will not hinder the moving of the Holy Spirit. The attitudes and relationships between pastors and their congregations and among members of the congregation, contribute much to revival’s coming.
Brother W. C. Moore, founder and editor of Herald of His Coming for nearly 40 years, frequently reminded us, his co-workers, of Philippians 2:3: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." God seemed to have revealed to him that particular Scripture as a secret of His favor, and God helped him to live it out in his daily life. Brother Moore’s humble spirit strengthened rather than weakened his leadership among us. We esteemed him for it, while at the same time we learned more from him about the sweet spirit of Jesus, who said that even He, the Son of God, came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life (Mark 10:45). We are to esteem not only the leader but every member as well.
Exhortation to Women
A question which women especially should ask themselves is, "How do we receive the leader’s wife and children?" Oftentimes it seems the Lord gives a leader a wife who is attractive and/or gifted above many. Someone in the congregation may become discouraged because the leader’s wife displaces her in an area where she has served in the church. Jealousy and resentment may enter in. How easily this leads to the "grumbling" that destroys love and unity.
To the woman who seems to be removed to stand in the shadow of another, we give the words of a songwriter: "Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus; He’s the One who always cares and understands. Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him, and you’ll know Him by the nail-prints in His hands." (E. J. Rollings). It is an occasion, dear one, when you can deny yourself, and die to what you desire, die to the joy and satisfaction you found in your service, and perhaps to the prestige it gave you. The nail-pierced hand still holds yours and will lead you in a new way. Remember, out of death comes life! There is some other area of service for you. To help in preventing discouragement or jealousy or resentment from taking hold, give thanks to the Lord (and it may take a while to be able to do this) for what He bestows on another of His daughters, to be used to glorify Him and advance His Kingdom. God wants you to have full victory in your heart. He lovingly bestows His grace, and it is sufficient, if you are willing to "die" to yourself, and surrender your choice to receive His.
To mention another possibility, the leader’s wife may fail to meet the expectations of some of the ladies of the church, in matters such as appearance, housekeeping, education, gifting, handling of her children, etc. Criticism results. Do not miss Donald Bubna’s appropriate and needful article about "grumbling" on pages 5 and 6. Since God loves us each one, surely we ought to love one another as He tells us to do: "This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12). The love by which we love one another is the love He brings to our hearts when He is in control. Oh, the difference it makes when His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit! (Rom. 5:5). Love covers many faults and makes us a supporter and not a reporter of shortcomings, although love at times seeks to teach and help in a gentle manner.
We must remember that we see not as God sees. Let us be wise and value that which God values. Do not prize too highly that which is seen in the outer life. The Apostle Peter said the beauty of a woman is that of the heart, that of a meek or gentle and quiet spirit, "which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Pet. 3:4).
When there is someone hard for you to love and appreciate, you may want to ask the Lord to help you make a list of ten good qualities in that one’s life. Give thanks to God for bringing that one into your life. Thank Him for the good qualities of his or her life, for what God has built into her or him to reveal Christ to others, as Blackaby suggests. I recently came across a list I had made some time back. It proved helpful at that time and was good to rehearse at this time.
Oh, Church, Church, Church!
It is late in earth’s day. Let us remember that it is God’s grace which has made us what we are—the beloved and blood-bought Body of Christ, being fitted to be His beloved Bride. Let us be done with petty, peevish differences that cause strife and division. And let us be gracious and unselfish in important and significant issues where there is not agreement. Let us humble ourselves to fit together in love and unity with other members. We have taken the name of Christ; let us manifest His spirit. Our calling is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, our exalted Head. Let us arise to our calling and count all things but loss for the sake of our worthy Lord and Saviour, as we eagerly look forward to His Coming to reign with peace and righteousness!
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Ps. 133:1).