Theme: Are They with Us?
This week’s lessons remind us of the need to show unity in the gospel with other believers, including those who are different from us.
Scripture: Mark 9:33-40
Yesterday we looked at the first three varieties within the church. Today we look at the last two.
4. There is a variety of methods. When I wrote of “styles” a moment ago I was approaching this area. But style is more an individual thing; method is organizational. When we speak of methods we are speaking of the difference between those who prefer to work within an institution to change it and those who prefer to work outside, between those who prefer direct confrontation and those who try to win by tact and persuasion, between those who work one-on-one and those who prefer to mount national campaigns.
In any given situation we may believe personally that one of these tactics is preferable to others and we may be convinced that another believer is doing at least some damage by his methods. But perhaps we are too! He may be alienating people unnecessarily. We may be compromising. We are not to judge the other Christian. He is not our servant. “To his own master he stands or falls” (Rom. 14:4).
5. There is a variety of places in which service is performed. I have been called to the city of Philadelphia and am very much concerned about cities, Philadelphia in particular. I have preached on commitment to a particular place (like Philadelphia) so much that I can hardly come to a mention of the word “place” without thinking along these lines. I believe in a commitment to the great cities of the world so much, and I want a commitment to Philadelphia by many Christian workers so much, that I can hardly stand to see a person go somewhere else. I am sometimes critical, especially when I see a person go to what I consider an easy, pleasant, or affluent area, especially if it is for what I consider to be the wrong motives.
But that is not right, of course. People are called to the cities, but others are also called to the country. They are called to the east, but they are also called to the west. They are called to this country and to other countries, to the poor and to the affluent, to working areas and to residential areas, to peaceful areas and to troubled areas. It is good they are, for it is the entire world (and not just our own area of concern) that needs the gospel.
I come back to my original question and ask of these other workers: “But are they with us?” The answer is that indeed they are—if they are faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we serve under the same commander, then we are all in one army. If we march to His drum, we are in the same procession.
But since we are asking the question, let us turn it around and ask it of ourselves. Let us ask, not “Are they with us?” Let us ask rather, “Are we with them?” We want them to back what we are doing, in spirit if not with their actual presence and resources. Do we do that for others who are equally serious about wanting to do good for Christ?
Let me tell you one thing I do. I am often interviewed on radio or television shows and am asked about my work. That usually turns to a discussion of Christian work in cities. When this happens, and it often does, I never consciously allow the occasion to pass without commending the other Christian works in Philadelphia, particularly the work of black churches. Their work is not my work. Their styles are quite different. But I generally say, “The best work in the city of Philadelphia today is being done by the black churches.” And I give specifics as to the number of churches, the size of their congregations, the variety of services, and the quality of leadership these churches provide.
That is what we need to do for all who serve in Christ’s name. We may not be able to endorse everything they do, but we should be able to say, “That person (or that work) is an authentic work of Christ, and I stand behind it. I am for any good work done for others in Jesus’ name.”
What does Dr. Boice mean when he speaks of a variety of methods?
Can you give examples of different kinds of methods?
From the lesson, what question should we be asking as we think about how we regard and relate to other Christians?
Application: Can you describe some of the variety present in church ministry today? Where can you, or do you, participate?
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Fifth Mark of the Church: Unity.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)