Connections in the Local Church (ATP)
This week’s Faith Fix is actually a combination of two questions that really go hand in hand. “We are a church family, but what if you don’t connect with everyone in that family? Does it make the church less strong as a unit? Is it wrong to not support someone from church when you disagree with something they’re doing? I’d hesitate going out of my way for them and I know that sounds so bad, as helping people is what we’re suppose to do but that’s why im asking.”
Let’s just think about it first from a very natural perspective. Jesus taught in parables for a reason, because they helped explain spiritual principles in a way we’d understand. In your own family aren’t there people that you get along with better? At the holidays aren’t there some people you seem to really connect with and others that you love because they’re family but you could take their personality or leave it? Everyone has had a favorite uncle and then an uncle you’d rather not admit belonged to you. As a school teacher I say to my students all the time that you’re just not going to like everybody but you need to learn how to deal with them peacefully. I say the same to our congregation.
To answer the question of whether or not this will weaken the church family as a whole, that’s entirely up to how you choose to handle people you don’t necessarily feel any natural inclination towards. The family unit will be weakened when you allow strife to form over those sort of preferences. In the local church we have to be higher minded. Over the years as a pastor and even before that, I’ve dealt with Christian brothers and sisters who didn’t seem very Christ-like. Sometimes people can be snarky, rude, and even outright nasty, but something my husband always says is that what matters is how we respond. It’s not up to us to make other people nicer, or to make someone else walk out this life as a strong Christian. We must watch and examine our own walk.
We do know the Word says, in Proverbs 18:24, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” If a Christian won’t lead in friendliness and try to reach out and make connections, it’s nobody else’s fault. Sometimes we can feel we haven’t connected with others because we haven’t actually ever tried. The enemy will convince Christian church goers to leave a local church because “there’s no one you connect with.” It’s important we find those who we can connect with, but it does take stepping out. It may be that others are sitting there thinking it’s you or I on the other end who hasn’t reached out to them.
Some may ask, “why can’t we just be a Christian and not worry about making connections?” Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” The strength of a local church body does depend on the body coming together, loving one another, understanding the value of the whole. Remember what Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” Christians erroneously think they need to find friends in a local church that match their age, their season in life, their socio-economic status, their hobbies and the like. But, I have found over the years that it’s the least likely people in my church family that have actually been the best in sharpening me and the most edifying for my life. It’s the people whose background was different from mine, whose personality was bolder than mine, who were a decade younger or three decades older than me, that have seemed to be the best connections in my life. When you feel you don’t connect with certain people, just make sure it’s not being measured only on a natural level. Check your heart and your spirit and the Lord will divinely connect you with the right brothers and sisters who will bless and edify your life. It won’t be everyone, and that’s ok.
Now the next part of this question is regarding supporting those people in the local church you don’t agree with. Support is an interesting term. If by support you mean to financially support someone who’s not being a doer of the Word with their finances or to pat someone on the back and say “there, there” just condoning their sin, you’re right, you should hesitate to do so. We can’t let the world’s definition of help and support distort the Word’s definition of it. At the same time, this cannot be a reason you refuse to help someone in need. Listen to the inward witness, be willing to help even the people you wouldn’t be naturally inclined to, if the Lord leads. There have been times the Lord has led us to give money to people we knew wouldn’t use it for the right things. He’s led us to bless people who we naturally didn’t want anything to do with. Be willing and obedient even in these situations. The Lord’s thoughts and His ways are higher than ours. He sees the bigger picture. Learn how the Lord deals with you. Follow Him and not your own ideas whether it’s being guilted into something or too opinionated to help someone who doesn’t live up to your standards.
Look at Galatians 6:1-2, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” If we know someone is living in sin, our hearts should be to pray for them, to be an example to them, to encourage them to live right and get more connected to the local church and the Word of God. This is the support all Christians should give regardless of whether or not we agree with or connect with someone. We should go out of our way to be doers of the Word as much as it’s up to us.
As far as connections go, we’re all connected. The whole body of Christ, but especially a local church body of believers, are knit together carefully, all members of the same body with important functions. Our connection to our brothers and sisters isn’t mental or emotional, but it’s divinely orchestrated. Though my hand doesn’t interact regularly with my heart or my big toe doesn’t interact with my ears, they’re still connected to the same body. If my big toe is weak, it weakens the rest of the body. If my heart is strong, all parts are affected. The best way to strengthen the local church is to realize these connections matter and be your part, functioning in your place. Amen?