WORK HARD FOR A HEALING SPIRIT

The What & Why of Honoring Church Leaders for Unity’s Sake

NPG D29704,The Farewell Sermons of ...,by Unknown artistSunday August 24, 1662, witnessed a great turning point in English Christianity. Dubbed The Great Ejection, some 2,000 ministers left the national church for reasons of conscience.

That “Farewell Sunday” Puritan giants like Richard Baxter, Thomas Manton, Thomas Watson, and numerous others delivered parting sermons to their congregations.

Thomas Brooks prepared his own, but apparently never got to preach it. Consequently he preserved his in written form. His conclusion consisted of twenty-seven “legacies” he wished to impart to his people.

The tenth revealed his passion for the church to excel in preserving unity:

Labour mightily for a healing spirit. This legacy I would leave with you as a matter of great concernment. To repeat: Labour mightily for a healing spirit. Away with all discriminating names whatever that may hinder the applying of balm to heal your wounds. Labour for a healing spirit. Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs, is no wonder; but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous. God hath made his wrath to smoke against us for the divisions and heart-burnings that have been amongst us. Labour for a oneness in love and affection with every one that is one with Christ. Let their forms be what they will, that which wins most upon Christ’s heart, should win most upon ours, and that is his own grace and holiness. The question should be, What of the Father, what of the Son, what of the Spirit shines in this or that person? and accordingly let your love and your affections run out.

In his first letter to a mostly healthy church at Thessalonica, the apostle Paul issued a variety of exhortations.

One in particular championed Brook’s labor-mightily-for-a-healing-spirit legacy.

Be at peace among yourselves (1 Thess. 5:13b).

The verb is an imperative. He commands this. It is not optional to pursue peace in the body of Christ—and get this—constantly no less.

He uses the present tense. It conveys a continuous kind of action. An alternate translation could rightly read, Keep on being at peace among yourselves.

Hebrews 12:14 slants it this way: Strive for peace with everyone. Paul stressed in Rom. 12:18, If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Brooks nailed it. Labor mightily for a healing spirit.

Do-your-best preservers of congregational unity should bring a lot of energy to peacemaking in the church. It will always rank high in their priorities as members of a fellowship.

In 1 Thess. 5:12-13, Paul zeroes in on the relationship between the people and their leaders. He spells out a practice they must master, if they are to excel as a peacemaking people.

Concluding with some final instructions he writes:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

The apostle targets principally the followers—the greater majority of any congregation.

The principle for laboring mightily to safeguard unity in this case is this: Peacemaking people in Christ’s church treat their officers with utmost honor given the nature of their work.

In my next few posts I plan to unpack the what and the why of honoring church officers. In the meantime, ask yourself this question:

How does my attitude toward the leaders of my church preserve or threaten my church’s unity?

The Grace of Clothing with Humility

Today’s message from 1 Peter 4:19-5:7 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

John Calvin said this of the proverbial expression, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble:

We are to imagine that; God has two hands; the one, which like a hammer beats down and breaks in pieces those who raise up themselves; and the other, which raises up the humble who willingly let down themselves, and is like a firm prop to sustain them. Were we really convinced of this, and had it deeply fixed in our minds, who of us would dare by pride to urge war with God? But the hope of impunity now makes us fearlessly to raise up our horn to heaven. Let, then, this declaration of Peter be as a celestial thunderbolt to make men humble.

May God strike us with humility’s celestial thunderbolt! Then we will have sheep who submit to their shepherds. Then we will have people given wholeheartedly to lowly-mindedness toward one another.

What could be lovelier before our eyes and more glorifying to our God than a report like: Oh yes, I know OGC, a more lowly-minded, humble community you will rarely find!?

What We Need from OGC

On Sunday I shared what I believe OGC needs from Nancy and me and the rest of our officers and their spouses. For the next two years, arguably among the most strenuous in our history, the church needs us to stay the course. OGC needs us to persevere through the hard work, the late hours, the difficult conversations, the tough decisions. The buck stops here in terms of leadership responsibility and we can’t afford to weenie out just because things get hard.

But now let me turn the tables and suggest a few things we need from our covenant members. First, and foremost, we need your prayers. Pray for our staying power over the long haul. Lord willing, we will get through this season of building a facility and all the challenges that come with it. A new normal will arrive in due season. Pray we hold on and excel in our duties.

Second, we need your participation. Paul called the Philippians partners in the gospel (Phil. 1:5). That’s what we are. We need to partner together in service. It’s every hand on deck. Find a need and fill it. Sacrifice when you must. Let’s pull the load together. We need to partner together in giving, BOTH to the capital campaign/Each One, Seek One and to the general fund budget. On the latter we have been slipping of late. Chuck Mitchell will bring a report this Sunday during the offertory.

Lastly, we need your perseverance and patience. I’ve said all along that we and we alone in the history of this church get to do this stewardship of building a facility. It’s an enormous privilege that will bring multiple rewards. But the endeavor is not for the faint of heart or weak in knee. So join Nancy and me when necessary in having that little talk over the kitchen table when things get dicey: What OGC needs from us right now is to keep the oars in the water and keep on rowing.