The Church and the Work

I have little time here, but I need to get something on this blog. I’m so sorry, but technical difficulties—caused by me—made my blog go down for several days.

I wrote three letters today, one of which involved some research. I’m going to make blog posts out of at least that one (later) and this one (right now).

This one is an answer to an email I got from someone who got some help with her marriage from a young but wonderful church in another city. The email I received asked why it’s so hard for Christians to really share their lives with one another. She suggested that the problem is fear.

I agree.

Here’s the response I wrote her:

We started helping a home church about 2 hours away from us. They were pretty scared of us and what we might say. We’re big for a Christian community, with over 250 people, and they know we have a lot of outspoken, strong men. (A sure sign that God is with us, or those strong men would have divided from each other over opinions long ago.)

What they found is that we brought in no doctrine except the call to serve God wholeheartedly and love one another.

But they already knew that mentally. What we helped them with was walking it out. For example …

At one meeting a young couple was having such marriage difficulties that the wife intended not even to go home with her husband. So many churches have no idea how to handle such a thing! Others just whisper to each other, “Gee, that’s too bad. I hope they work it out.”

We didn’t even have to tell that little home church what to do. They had gotten to know us. A couple of the older sisters pulled that young wife aside and talked to her. A couple of the older brothers checked on the young husband who was brokenhearted over the whole thing and wasn’t sure what he’d done. Then all of them sat down together, and the young couple went home with their marriage in better shape than it had ever been because both were much wiser and had their eyes on God.

That’s the church. That makes all the difference.

That is unimaginably hard.

No one who has ever tried to live that way has any idea how hard it is. In fact, without the help of God it’s impossible. If the church lives like that, power comes down from heaven. The Spirit of God establishes a unity that is so beautiful that no one can speak against it. The world will always criticize the church, but only from a distance. Up close, they’re speechless because no one can speak against the love of God when it descends from heaven.

The devil has no intentions of letting that be established in the earth. Give your lives to loving and serving one another–assuming that we’re talking about people willing to follow Jesus Christ anywhere and under any circumstances–and the devil will come running, weapons drawn.

On top of that, what you write is true. People are scared. What we have found is that the strongest men are filled with fear. Women tend to let down a little easier and trust faster, but men are very slow to let God deal with them to make them trust one another.

Protestants like to say, “I don’t trust men; I just trust God.”

Well, if that’s true, you’ll never be in the church, and you’ll never have the power the apostles and the early church had.

In America, the only way there’s going to be real church life is for someone to drop their fear, give themselves wholly to Christ to suffer whatever might come their way, and then begin to seek the will of God in their own life and in the lives of those around them with boldness, kindness, patience, and love …

… and a willingness to leave behind those that don’t really want to follow Christ.

You can’t build a church with children of the enemy, and Christ only receives disciples who are willing to leave everything behind and follow him. We can wish it were not so, but Jesus is very clear on a repeated basis that he wants everything. He let the rich, young ruler walk away even though the Scriptures say Jesus loved him, that he kept the commandments, and that he wanted to know how to be complete. When the test came, though–give up your possessions–he went away sad, and Jesus did not go running after him.

Don’t take that wrong. It’s the Lord who knows those who are his. Sometimes the ones most willing to follow Christ don’t look like devoted people willing to give everything up for him.

Well, at this point I’m going on too far. There’s no explaining the church. What you say is correct, though. The problem is fear. The problem is also the lack of a clear, crisp call to give up our lives and follow Christ; a real death to ourselves; a real embracing of the cross.

There can be no private areas where brothers and sisters can’t get in. We have to be one family, closer to each other in Christ than we are to our biological families.

I’ll just quit there. If you’ve been writing to B______, that’s a great start. Be in fellowship—wholehearted fellowship–with all those who devotedly serve Christ (2 Tim. 2:22). Every time you have problems in your marriage that you can’t handle, let brothers and sisters know so that they can help you. (You better pick ones that can help you.) Let people into your lives who are brave enough to tell you where you’re too impatient, too sharp-tongued or maybe even too patient and not sharp-tongued enough!

The best thing of all is that brothers and sisters who know you can also say, “No, that’s not a problem. Everyone’s got faults. You’re a wonderful person who’s really doing great. Relax. You can work on that fault ten years from now.”

I’m going all over the map here, but when we get to talking about the church, there’s so much to be said that American Christians desperately need to know but don’t.

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