By Lindell Mitchell
Our culture suffers from acute selfishness. Psychobabblers incessantly blather the selfesteem mantra. They are joined by a great chorus of eastern mystics, humanists, skeptics, sexual perverts, media talkingheads, politically correct baby boomers, leftist educrats, ecofreaks, occultists, renegade oneworlders, and theological liberals. The degenerates believe they have experienced an unprecedented paradigm shift. "Antiquated concepts" like service, and seeking the good of others first have been replaced with selfishness. The hapless chorus of "experts" and "deep thinkers" do not recognize the origin of the "new" paradigm. Actually it is an ancient paradigm originally uttered in the Garden of Eden, "Ye shall be as God" (Gen. 3:5b).
The modern rehash of Satan's lie is the essence of what is wrong with human society. Sadly, the same virulent malignancy is ravaging God's church. How utterly tragic. The Bible gives the cure. This cure is selflessness. Christians are to model selflessness before the world. We are to be a pattern for others to follow instead of aping the silly selfishness of the world.
The core of Christianity is a "one another" ethic. This is the essence-the life-of our religion. Its primary manifestation is seen in the Christian's relationship with God. He is to love the Lord above all else (Mark 12:2030). Next in importance is the Christian's relationship with his brethren. Love of brethren identifies one as God's man (John 13:3435). Unity among brethren leads nonChristians to embrace the faith (John 17:2021). The question is, how do you sustain this vital "one anotherness"?
First, Christians are to be at peace with one another. The first "one another" text in the New Testament records Jesus saying: "Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it, have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another" (Mark 9:50 NKJV). Christians are the seasoning and preservative of society. Clearly one way to retain savory saltiness is to be at peace with the brethren. This is accomplished first through humility. Paul said, "Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things. but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion" (Rom. 12:16 NKJV). Like mindedness grows out of mutual association. It comes from humility of heart which is not wise in its own opinion. It is not "too good" for others. It does not participate in elitists cliques. Peace is sustained by selfless living (1 Pet. 3:89). The selfless person will sustain an injury, accept an injustice, or endure an insult for the good of the cause. He will consistently place the good of others ahead of his own good.
Second, sustaining the "one anotherness" of Christianity means honoring one another. Christians are to prefer one another, highly esteeming each other. This is accomplished by accepting, befriending, and submitting to one another. The Lord was a friend of sinners, but his most intimate associations were with the righteous. Friends find it within themselves to accept and submit to one another. Mutual submission is at the heart of Christianity. Peter said, "[Y]es, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility" (1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV). Paul enjoined, "submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21).
Third, to sustain the "one anotherness" of the Christian faith requires brotherly love. Peter said, "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit in the sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart" (1 Pet. 1:22) .
Peaceful relations with brethren, honor bestowed on brethren, and love of brethren, all serve to validate one's faith. These elements prove we are genuine. They enrich our lives, sustain our cause, and can heal our society. But before we heal society, we must heal ourselves.
No loyal disciple denies that Christ established a "one another" religion (John 17:2021). Inspired men universally insisted that this "one another" ethic be honored, Yet self-appointed changeagents smugly refuse to comply in these matters. Their insolent rebellion is especially evident in their brazen refusal to honor the "one another" aspects of Christian worship. Chronically disgruntled changelings led by a recent "Christian" university graduate begin agitating for modified assemblies.
The new "involvement" minister has the answers. An audience is sought with the elders where changes are demanded. The changelings insist on abandoning what they caricature as dull, uninspiring, irrelevant, assemblies. They insist on dynamic, "spiritual," uplifting, relevant affairs.
The new "involvement" minister leads the revolt. He has read all of Lynn Anderson's material, which Anderson appears to have largely copied from a denominationalist named Lyle Schaller. He [the involvement minister] has a brand new Master of Divinity degree from a "Christian" university. The university is fully accredited by infidels and denominationalists. The rebel leader subscribes to Wineskins and hopes to speak at the Jubilee someday. He attends "Promise Keeper" rallies and seminars at the Willow Creek Community church.
Changeagents like to launch assaults in men's business meetings. Secret cellmeetings are held to map out a detailed agenda. Only "spiritual" brethren are invited. When all is in readiness, the plan is sprung on unsuspecting elders who have been kept in the dark. The elders often recognize that the changes will disrupt the congregation's harmony. But the "involvement minister" is flanked by the young, upwardly mobile, welleducated, spoiled, knowitall baby boomers. The threat of mutiny is implied if their demands are not met.
The scenario usually plays out in unacceptable ways. Elders often cavein, meeting the rebel's demands. Reportedly one congregation's elders suddenly announced their mass resignation to the church. They went on to inform their flock that they intended to begin worshiping with other churches. Such cowardice is beneath contempt. If elders believe evasion of duty diminishes accountability before God, they are mistaken. Abandoning the congregation to rebels no more removes their responsibility than Pilate's attempt to wash his hands of Jesus!
Secondly, elders often follow the path of appeasement. Lacking the courage to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, they seek to mollify. Increasingly I hear of churches offering two "styles" of worship. The "involvement" minister establishes contemporary worship services along the lines of the Willow Creek Community Church. Really "hip" churches offer "seeker friendly" services. They do not partake of the Lord's Supper or talk about baptism lest the "seeker" be offended. A traditional service is continued for the elders and outdated traditionalists. They are the people who built the church and who still constitute the core of its financial base.
The "involvement" minister evokes a real sensation with his "relevant" worship. He has brethren shouting, clapping, and swaying to the music. They do the Pentecostal wave, applaud tearjerking testimonials, and have a rollicking good time. Felt needs are paramount. The people are pampered. The rebel leader invites "leading brothers" like Rubel Shelly, Mike Cope, and Jeff Walling, to address the really "spiritual" brethren. These fellows are the glib tongue promoters of error, but they are not the real thinkers. People like Carroll Osburn, Leonard Allen, Darryl Tippens and a few others constitute the braintrust of apostasy, but they are too boring for "Holy Wow!" occasions like Rubel Shelly produces. Max Lucado's books constitute the core of the educational curriculum.
The attempted appeasement falls flat! The faithful object to the digressive practices of the rebels. The rebels, having wrenched tacit endorsement from reluctant elders, are not about to relinquish their status. They intend to rule. That's right! They aim to possess the property and suppress any opposition to their liberal agenda. All is lost. It is too late! God's church is divided. The wicked laugh.
The nerveless leaders now have a church within a church. Brethren are lined up behind their spiritual heroes like the firstcentury Corinthians (1 Cor. 1). Chaos and anarchy are upon them. Surely sensible Christians see that these developments constitute a brazen violation of God's will. One does not prefer his brethren in honor by running roughshod over them. He does not love them by insisting on his own way. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not callously indifferent to the sensibilities of brethren. Love is not haughty, arrogant, and condescending. Love does not circumvent elders or steal places of worship built by others. Love does not look down on those considered backward and unenlightened. Love is a cooperative teamplayer. Love is kind, considerate, and tender. Love respects the feelings of others. Love walks with humility.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others (Phil. 2:34).
Establishing and perpetuating a church within a church is a blatant violation of the "one anotherness" required by our Lord. It must not be tolerated much less encouraged. Christians who prefer one another, consider one another, honor one another, and love one another, can surely assemble together for worship.