June 15, 2017
Why this change? Why take away services that people enjoy? I have heard from or heard about people asking this question concerning our transition. This is more than a fair question, it is an excellent question. I believe there is also an excellent answer.
The primary reason for this transition is to not "take away services." Rather, the primary reason for this transition is to unify our church. The Bible speaks of the importance of unity in the church body. Jesus prayed for it (John 17:22-23). Paul told the church at Rome that they were "one body in Christ and individually members of one another" (Romans 12:5). He encouraged the church at Ephesus to "be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). Paul also called the church at Philippi to be "united in one Spirit" (Philippians 2:2), and he tells the church at Colossae "beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Colossians 3:14). The call to unity is fleshed out by the numerous New Testament "one another" commands, for example:
- "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor".
- when the church came together for the Lord's Supper they were to "wait for one another".
(1 Corinthians 11:33)
- Paul reminds the Corinthians that God placed the people and their gifts in the body in such a way "so that there may be no division in the body, but that members may have the same care for one another".
(1 Corinthians 12:25)
- "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
- "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God".
We learn several things about unity from these verses.
- First, unity is not optional for the church, it is in fact commanded.
- Second, unity is provided by the Spirit, and the church is told to maintain it diligently.
- Third, Jesus' prayer for His people was for them to be unified, which should find specific application in a local church body.
- Fourth, the "one another" passages imply a regular meeting together and caring for one another by all believers in the church.
- Fifth, God desires there to be no division in the body.
- Sixth, part of teaching and admonishing one another is through "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs," pointing to the importance of corporate worship in maintaining unity.
Another verse, however, points to an important result of unity. In John 17:23, Jesus noted that unity leads to mission; praying to the Father, He said "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." The world will know that the Father sent the Son by means, partly, of the Christ-centered unity and oneness of His body. Thus unity is not an inward focus for the church that is a hindrance to mission. Rather, the unity of a church is the launching pad for mission.
The implication of all these verses is that one of the basic aspects of maintaining unity is that the body gathers together in one place to worship the Lord and to care for and serve one another, and this unity will make Christ known in the world. This leads us to ask, are we united like this? Are we seeking to be united like this? Since, according to scripture, unity is not optional for us, are there things we need to do to maintain the unity the Spirit provides? The unification of our church as one worshiping body is one of the practical and logical steps in following these Biblical commands. This is the sole reason why I am recommending we transition; the Bible calls us to be unified. This goes beyond discussions about locations, styles, and environments - as important as they are. Unity - the body being together to worship out Lord and to build up the body - is essential, not tangential, to the health of a church and its mission. This is God's plan for His churches, including Bethel. This is the work He desires to accomplish in and through us. He desires to unify us and through this make us effective in mission. Just as Caleb encouraged the children of Israel to take possessions of the land God had promised them (Numbers 13:30), we too should follow God and the directions He has given us, knowing that, by His power, He will accomplish great things in and through us.
In His Love,