Encouraging, Comforting, Imploring

Paul writes this in 1 Thessalonians 2:11, As you know, like a father with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to live worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

As a pastor and elder at Crosspoint, I desire to do that well in the coming months.  I desire to live in a way that is worthy of God, and I have a burden to encourage, comfort, and implore you, who call Crosspoint home, to do the same.

Pastoring in 2020 has kind of felt like I am trying to teach or talk over the sound of a jet engine.  To say that 2020 has been noisy and cluttered with a host of potential distractions is an understatement.  Some of the noise in our lives is our own fault.  We’ve welcomed it in and drank from its toxic fountain.  Other noise is simply inescapable no matter what our rhythms of life are.

Prior to 2020, we all saw the polarizing bent of our culture and nation occurring.  And yet I’m pretty confident that none of us have personally felt it to the degree that we have this year.  The potential to divide is not just ‘out there’ in the world, but it is prevalent in the big C church.  And frankly, it is disheartening to this pastor’s heart.  It is disheartening to fellow pastors around this nation that I am friends with.

For instance, people are leaving their home churches or arriving at new churches over secondary matters such as reopening timelines, Sunday morning protocols, facial coverings, responses (or lack thereof) to matters of race and riots, politics and more.  Not in matters of primary importance (i.e.: heretical or false teaching).  Interestingly enough, all these Covid-related matters, no one has walked through before up until the last 6 months.  So expertise or perfect wisdom in such areas is difficult to gain in such a short time.

And division among the church is not glorifying to God.  For instance, Paul writes to the Philippians (4:2-3), I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life.

He’s urging these two women, and the church as a whole, to seek agreement and unity.  Why?  One reason is because they are fellow contenders for the gospel.  They are fellow missionaries, ambassadors and witnesses.  And in their disagreement (we’re unsure of what it is), these two women, and others, have forgotten what is primary, which is the gospel.  They have allowed something secondary or some interpersonal issue to affect the unity and mission of the church, to the degree that Paul addresses it in a church wide letter.

As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:11, one picture of spiritual leadership is that of a father.  And it is burdensome to earthly fathers, let alone spiritual fathers, when they see their children in division.

Now we know from reading the New Testament, unity in the church doesn’t mean uniformity.  It doesn’t mean unity around all A-Z issues, and their various sub-points.  But it does mean unity around the core Biblical truth that binds us as the family of God.  At Crosspoint, we call this our Statement of Beliefs.  Orthodox Christianity that has been around for centuries.

We also have our Statement of Convictions.  These are summary statements on areas that are sometimes debated among Bible-believing Christ followers. Some people refer to these as ‘secondary’ matters of doctrine, but they are nonetheless important and true as we understand and interpret the Scriptures. Our teaching and ministry is shaped by these convictions, and yet you can still be a covenant member of Crosspoint, and not be in perfect alignment with these secondary matters of doctrine.

Do secondary issues, preferences, and opinions matter?  Of course.  But even if deeply held, they don’t have to lead to division and disunity.  And they should be discussed face to face in a way that reflects biblical truth such as…

Ephesians 4:1-3:  Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace

And James 1:19-20: My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

Consider the words of Jesus praying for His future church, a little under 2000 years before the year 2020 ever came around.  (Also, keep in mind the sovereign goodness of our Lord, who is beyond time and space and who was not and is not taken surprise by our current situation.  Let alone what will occur in 2021, 2022, and so on.)

Jesus praying for us…

John 17:20-26:  “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.”

Among other things, our Chief and Good Shepherd is praying that our unity would reflect the unity of the Father and Son’s relationship and at the same time, be a testimony to the world.  So that the world may know and see the love of Jesus because of how they see His family, flock and Body live alongside and love one another.

May we joyfully, intentionally, and humbly seek to be living and visible answers to our Lord and Savior’s prayer.  Where we have failed in doing so, may we gladly repent and pursue to walk and live in a way worthy of our God.