Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. – Acts 20:28 (CSB)
It is a good thing when Christians protect the church. I find few things more refreshing than when a Christian cares enough to stick their neck out, or open their mouth in defense of the church. Acts 20:28 tells us to be on guard for ourselves, for the flock (other Christians), and to shepherd, or oversee, those Christians, and the church of God.
Let me repeat, it is a good thing when Christians protect the church!
However, (you knew a “however” was coming, didn’t you?) we sometimes get confused about what it means to protect the church, and when we do this, despite our good intentions, we can unfortunately do quite a bit of harm. Consider for a moment the types of things you think God would deem worthy of your efforts in protecting the church. Doctrine? Absolutely! Moral standards in leadership? Of course–just remember to speak the truth in love. The mission and message of the church? You bet! I believe all of those are examples of the types of responsibilities that God charges all of His Christians with, when it comes to His church.
Now consider with me for a moment the types of things that we often think we are doing for the service and protection of the Church—but in reality don’t really fit the mold of the examples above. Perhaps you already have a few in mind. Before I give you some examples, let me chase a brief rabbit. Occasionally, I’ll read a book that really sticks with me. While I did not agree with everything in Who Stole My Church, by Gordon MacDonald, I came away from it realizing that a common problem in churches today is that well-meaning Christians often get confused over the types of issues from which God desires us to protect His church. Would God consider carpet color important enough to fight over? Would God consider the end of a long-standing, but ineffective and labor-intensive program to be reason enough to fight? What about music style (not message, style)? If you’re getting mad right about now, I pray you’ll hear me out.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not talking about having an opinion, or even voicing that opinion. I’m talking about when Christians attack. That may sound like a reality TV show, but it happens in churches all across our country. We often confuse the mission and message of God with our own personal preferences. And, oftentimes, when our preferences aren’t met, we unleash fury on fellow Christians and leaders of the church. Perhaps you’ve seen this happen. Perhaps you’ve done this before—or perhaps you’re fired up about an issue at this very moment. Whether that’s you or not, I want you to notice something about Acts 20:28. Who owns the church? God owns the church, and He owns it because He purchased it with His blood. Here’s an interesting thing, God purchased me, individually, with His blood, too (1st Corinthians 6:18-20). This means that both I, and the church, are God’s. He owns us. He owns the church and He owns you!
If it were my church, and someone voted to change the carpet to a color I didn’t like, then I could force them to change it. But it’s not my church. If it were my church, and the congregation voted for a building program that I didn’t see the wisdom behind, then I could raise a stink and have their folly corrected. But it’s not my church. If it were my church, then I’d make them play only the songs that appealed to me. But it’s NOT MY CHURCH…and it’s not yours either.
So, what should I do if I don’t like the color of the paint or some other issue or decision in the church? In these instances—which will happen at any church—I’ll respectfully voice my opinion at a business meeting and/or maybe speak to key leaders. However, once the church has decided, I must put God’s mission and God’s message above all of my personal preferences. Might a time come when God calls a person to leave a church? Sure, God calls people to move to different churches all the time, but I would continue to stress the same point. If ever you consider leaving the church you attend, ensure you aren’t leaving over a preference. Ensure that God is actually calling you to another place, and that you’re not simply leaving because you’re disgruntled.
And then I ask you to go a step further. Ensure that whether you leave or stay, you PROTECT THE CHURCH. Protect the church by refusing to talk ill of it or its leaders. Protect the church by being at peace with other church members—even if you disagree with them over something. Protect the church by serving within it. Protect the church by loving others and sharing the Gospel with them. Protect the church by studying God’s Word and knowing what Biblical truth looks like so that you can discern teachings that are false. Protect the church by deciding that if there is a disagreement which you are unable to overlook, and God is calling you to worship somewhere else, then move churches as quietly as possible, without besmirching anyone, or causing a scene. Leave a church in this manner simply because you know that it’s God’s church, purchased by the blood of the lamb, and therefore, worthy of your loyalty and protection, even if you end up going to church somewhere else. I don’t believe that God would have me harm any church. In fact, God calls me to be on guard for myself, other Christians, and to watch over the whole church; not just the parts of the church that agree with my preferences.
It is a good thing when Christians remember that the church is God’s church. It is a good thing when Christians stand watch, to prevent evil things from entering His church. It is a good thing when Christians voice their opinions in a loving manner, but always put God and His mission first. It is a good thing when Christians discern between God’s things and their preferences. It is a good thing when Christians protect the church.
Protect the church!
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