Healthy Congregations, Part 4

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame (Hebrews 6:1-6).

For whom did Jesus die? For first-century Jewish people in their society? For gentiles then also? For those who lived for the next 2,000 years world-wide? For us now? For people in Fort Smith not in Christ? For those in our world who are not in Christ?

Ask the same questions from another perspective. Is Jesus a “world Savior” or an “us” Savior? Does he prefer my background and concepts? Since he was never American, never ate hamburgers and fries, never spoke or read English, never went to college, does he prefer another background? Does he have any background preference?

Hopefully, if we took a thin slice of the “midsection” of a congregation and placed it under a microscope to determine make-up and needs, we would find visitor needs, new convert needs, young Christian needs, growing Christian needs, and mature Christian needs. Hopefully, we would find a diversity of people with a diversity of backgrounds. Hopefully, we would find numerous people being stretched spiritually to meet a complex situation, and people in Christ using an understanding of God to meet that challenge. These Jesus-led, God-directed people of faith have the courage to walk righteously.

A practical question: What is the newly baptized person learning from me? How to “safely” gossip? How to be bitter and hold grudges? How to “get my way” correctly? How to exploit people? How to “be political” in the church? Generally speaking, how to “play the religious game” to achieve “my interests”?

Or, how to serve? How to sacrifice? How to encourage? How to be godly even if wronged? How to be committed to a Savior’s values? How to be God’s light in an evil world? How to trust in God in hard times? How to endure injustice (which God and Jesus did in Jesus’ cross) and yet remain spiritually true to God’s character?

Or am I a confusing mixture of both?

Nothing is more powerful than a godly example. Effectiveness in helping others spiritually depends on people holding themselves to a high level of accountability that exists because of a love commitment to God. It exists voluntarily, not by force. Mature congregations are filled with individuals who dare to be Christ-like examples. Spirituality is not a veneer finish only surface deep—it is intentional godliness!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 17 April 2008

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