How to Have Harmony in a Congregation

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An emphasis on sound doctrine will unite Christian in a single confession. Truth unites! Yet there must not only be a unifying confession, but unifying ethical qualities. Unity is not only about what a church believes, but how a church loves.

One thing is for certain church unity is not optional. Look how Paul, by piling up terms, accentuates this oneness — So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (Philippians 2:1-2). No one has the right to divide a congregation. In fact, divisive people, who are often false teachers, are subject to church discipline (Rom. 16:17).

The primary biblical consideration for the unity of the church is found in the Triune nature of God– The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one (John 17:22). True unity brings joy to the believer’s heart. It is one the reasons to be excited about our church because we reflect the sweet and eternal unity of the Father and the Son.

While church unity is the gift of God, we must carry it out. Therefore we must put away selfish ambition. Note the Apostles’ exhortation: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit (Philippians 2:3). He uses two words here: eritheia (=selfish ambition) and kenodoxia (=empty praise). The church is not anyone’s platform. It is not the place for you to realize you dreams. You and I are not called to be the stars of the show. Such a desire comes from selfish ambition. It gives rise to rivalry and envy. James says: where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, called ambition the “hidden plague.” Our society pushes selfish ambition. It tells us to “shoot for the stars” and “Strive to realize our dreams.” ”You can be whatever we want to be.” The plague is no longer hidden. I suppose this advice would be good if those dreams are reasonable and realistic. But in today’s environment of unrealistic idealism, such advice will run people ragged and set them up for a cynical outlook.

How do you put it away selfish ambition? Know the true worth or value of it. Selfish ambition is the pursuit of dream that is not only beyond your reach but one you were never meant to pursue. Selfish ambition is not content with who you are. It hold hands with ingratitude. It misunderstands the high value of the ordinary. It will drive you to follow the next big thing. And then the next one, and then the next one….

Know your calling and live faithfully right there. That is the best place to be and the most joyful. Don’t aim for the stars—don’t aim for some prominent place—don’t aim to have your agenda in the church. If you are the arm in the body of Christ, then you are not the eye. But selfish ambition will drive you to be something you are not. If the Lord is raising you up to a more prominent position either in the church or in society, others will recognize this and advise you accordingly. Otherwise, embrace steady, quiet faithfulness. And beware of celebrity Christian teachers who present the next big thing that will transform the world and the church. Above all, don’t disparage the regular, faithful, ordinary ministry of the Word by your pastor, whoever he may be. God works in that preaching far more than we think.

So put away selfish ambition and conceit which cannot co-exist with unity in a congregation for long.

In addition put on humility. The Apostle says -but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Philipp. 2:3). There is a powerful insight in this call to humility. The humble person is satisfied in Christ. Behind ambition and conceit is discontentment or dissatisfaction. Ambition is the false belief that if my dreams are realize, I will be satisfied. But the one humbled before the Cross of Christ, not only sees the contradiction of pride, but also the satisfaction of ambition. The reason is that in the gospel we gain Christ, and in Christ we have everything (1 Cor. 1:30, 3:21-23). I need forgiveness, and I have that in Christ. I need to be sanctified before God, I have that in Christ. In him, I have all that I need to please God. In him, the Father approves. Therefore, released from the bondage of numerous sins I am freed to serve others. Humility is a satisfied state of mind that leads one to serve others. So says Paul in verse four: Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

This is the fundamental antidote to church conflict. It is you, not the other guy, but you having a humble frame of mind that comes from faith in all that Christ is for you and thus finding your satisfaction in His grace. You do not need to be the star of the show. Rather you are to realize your place and your gifts, and serve the church faithfully and steadily over the years. The church does not need superstars, it needs servants.

Author: Tracy Gruggett

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