Church unity is precious

Dear BPCWA worshipper, Thank God for last Sunday’s ACM. The ACM reports show that God has truly been graciously enabling His ministries to do His work for His church and the edification of the saints. Moreover, He has mercifully helped us go through very challenging times during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. When God works in the church, so will Satan try even harder to disrupt it.  I wish to re-emphasize and elaborate more on what I shared about unity in the church during the ACM exhortation, so please do read on.

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Cor 1:10).

The importance of unity. Peace in BPCWA depends on our unity. Unity is a very fragile thing. It is not easy to achieve but it is very easy to lose. The first issue that the Apostle Paul dealt with in his epistle to the Corinthian church was disunity in the church. He had been informed of contentions going on in the church. Paul pleaded with them to be united because strives and debates among them were causing factions and fracturing the church. When there are conflicts in the church, the gospel work, i.e. the great commission and making disciples, will be greatly hindered. People will be more concerned about getting their own agendas through and getting people to be on their side, instead of focusing on and helping each other to forward the purpose of God’s church. In addition, it turns visitors away when they notice the lack of harmony. Instead of an environment that is God-glorifying, they sense the tension and antagonism in the church. Even worshippers will eventually be discouraged, frustrated, and stop growing spiritually. Hence, God’s Word is full of reminders about striving together for unity instead of striving against each other. We are currently experiencing, by the mercies of God, unity in BPCWA. Satan is not blind. He will seek to break it if he can.  And the best tool in his hand will be to use anyone who is ignorant or willing to be used. There were three areas the Apostle pointed out to achieve unity. Let us take heed to God’s warning in these areas and do our part by His grace.

The unity of our speech. Apostle Paul implored all worshippers should “speak the same thing”. This means that we should be in agreement when we talk about convictions of the faith and church matters. Disunity occurs when we speak in contradiction to what we know, for example, what the church believes in, its directions, and how it operates. Of course, Paul cannot be asking everyone to agree with anything doctrinally wrong or sinful practices. Notice that Paul emphasizes “that ye all” i.e. every single worshipper! All it takes is one of us to sow disagreement and it can ignite a wildfire. All it takes is a single lighted matchstick to cause a bushfire to demolish hectares of land and forests that were once beautiful.  The effect in the church will be far worse. There will be times when we do not like what or how the church operates. But if we have chosen to be part of this church, then we should toe the line. This means accept to accept the authority, policies, or principles set even when you are unwilling. Do you find it controlling and unreasonable? We normally would because of our flesh – we like to do what we like to do.  But do not forget, Paul cites the authority of the Lord’s name, “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”, to ask every worshipper to still speak the same thing i.e. do not speak in contradiction.  Let us remember that it is the very fact that we will not always be in conformity of opinions, and so, at some point over in some non-doctrinal matter, we are bound to disagree. And the flesh will stir us to want to speak against the directions and decisions in the church. Why do you think Paul needs to invoke the full title of Christ? So that you will not think the church leadership is “thumbing” down their freedom to express their contrary opinions. But rather, it is the expectation of the Head of the Church. So, it is when we disagree but yet speak the same thing (i.e. what is needed to support the church’s direction and decisions), that we foil Satan’s plans to make us his mouthpiece of discord.

The unity of our actions in the congregation. Paul moves from speech to action for unity. He told them that there should be “no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together”. This means to stop an action that has been going on. There is a saying that action speaks louder than words. A pouting child, though silent, intends to tell others that they are unhappy. Are you struggling with moving with the church in something? And you have been finding opportunities not just to speak a different thing to others, but also to act in contradiction to the church?  The injunction in the Lord’s Name is to deliberately stop such divisive behaviours. In contrast, we should be “perfectly joined together”. This means “to cause to happen by means of some arrangement – to produce, to arrange for, to cause to happen”. We can bring unity by amending our behaviours, and this is especially important when we find it hard to unite with what the church does. Actions speak louder than words. By your unsupportive actions, the leaven will spread. As I have mentioned many times, there are many ways to do something. Some ways may benefit or suit others better than you. Some directions may necessitate a certain way of doing things that may not be to your liking. Here is where you can contribute to unity – by choosing to not be divisive, but to deliberately act contrary to the flesh and be part of the church’s decision.  Unite to be joined together with the church, instead of trying to make your point noticed. Insisting on having our way makes a person a prime candidate to be used to cause unrest in BPCWA. We must make a deliberate choice to be perfectly joined together, especially when we find it most difficult because of our personal views.

The unity of our mindset. Where does our speech and behaviour get their impetus? From our mind and our judgment of something. Hence, God directs us to all be in “the same mind and in the same judgment”.  Paul repeats “the same” for emphasis. Unity depends on striving to be the same. The “mind” is our faculty of thinking, understanding, and deciding. It affects who we are because it affects our will and hence our feelings as a result. “Judgement” refers to our reasoning that results in an opinion being formed. Do you care about the Lord Jesus Christ’s church? If you do, then here is the thought you need to embrace – even if you have a different thought about something in the church and have a strong opinion about it, choose to be of the same mind and judgment with the church. Again, God cannot be telling us to be so when it comes to doctrinal errors and sinful practices. Neither is it saying that no one can express their opinions and reasonings. But 1) go to the church leaders instead of speaking to others because you can inevitably plant a different mind and judgment in others. 2) Express your opinions with the aim to be of the same mind, and be ready to be of the same mind whatever the final outcome of the discussion. There have been valuable inputs where the church benefited because of the useful reasoning and judgement of members. And there have also been times when, because of a bigger picture, the church could not change. In such situations, the individual then needs to make up his mind to no longer strive against the direction by speech or behaviour, but to resolve to support the church’s decisions.  Is this not the same in the home? When an individual chooses to take a path of refusing to set aside personal desires and opinions and continues to maintain a certain mindset about a matter, there is no peace at home, not to mention disunity. But when all are determined to have the same mindset of giving way to accept what is best for the wider group, even when it conflicts with their own opinions, there will be strong unity.

We thank God that BPCWA is united in doctrines today. So, it will be the personal preferences (the most sensitive areas) about church direction and operations that will be the target of the wicked one. May each one of us seek to be a tool of God, instead of Satan. Even at times when we have different preferences and different opinions, be ready to nevertheless speak the same thing, toe the line with others by our actions, and take on the mindset of accepting other’s reasonings so as to have unity. This will help keep BPCWA stable into the future to focus on the work of the Gospel. Let us take heed to the Head of the Church about this matter!

Yours in our Lord’s service,