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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Is God working in your church?

How do you know (if God is working in your church)?  Maybe your church isn't really growing numerically  or isn't evangelistic enough.  But are those the only measures, or even the most important?

I just finished reading an article about stress on pastors.  One of the major factors in pastoral stress the author mentioned was the strife and discord in churches, much of it directed toward pastors.

I've had the privilege of teaching the same (or similar) Introduction to New Testament courses at various institutions in Illinois and Colorado.  One of the joys of teaching such a class is reading large amounts of the Bible in a short time.  Recurring themes tend to stick out.  One of these themes is that of unity and lack of conflict.

Dr. Robert Alden shared some thoughts on Psalm 133 once in class.  The psalm begins "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"  David then continues these thoughts by likening unity to the dew from the mountains falling on dry Jerusalem and to the performed oil poured on Aaron.

This theme of unity continues in the New Testament.  Paul tells his readers to be devoted to each other in brotherly love (Romans 12:10).   Hebrews 13:1 exhorts the readers to continue in brotherly love.  Paul prays for a spirit of unity among the Romans (15:5ff).  Paul commands his readers (Ephesians 4:3) "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."   Paul isn't saying that we should only try to keep the unity if we feel like it or to make a small effort, but rather make every effort.

If you are in a church that acts mostly in unity, where there is little gossip, where people actually listen to each other and care about each other, where decisions are made after thought, prayer, and consideration, and dissenters are seriously listened to, might it be a sign that God is at work?  That people are being shaped by God's word and prayer and the Holy Spirit?

We often think that if God is at work our attendance will increase, and that may be true.  But God is at work in other ways as well, just as powerfully, but perhaps more quietly.

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