The New Testament gives us more than enough commands for believers to live out the Christian life organically among the members of the congregation to which we belong. There are 59 “one another” passages in the New Testament that we can only understand and carry out in light of the relationship each believer has to other believers in the same worshiping community. Here are a few of the commands through which God reveals how He desires for believers to live out their Christian lives organically with other believers in the local church:
- “Bear with the failings of the weak” (Rom. 15:1)
- “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10)
- “Serve one another through love” (Gal. 5:13)
- “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2)
- “Share all good things with the one who teaches” (Gal. 6:6)
- “Do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10)
- “Bear with one another in love, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering” (Eph. 4:2)
- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32)
- “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16)
- “Increase and abound in love to one another and to all” (1 Thess. 3:12)
- “Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13)
- “Consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24)
- “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account” (Heb. 13:7)
- “Visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27),
- “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16)
- “Love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)
- “Have compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8)
- “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9)
- “Minister to one another, as each one has received a gift” (1 Peter 4:10)
- “Love one another” (1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5).
These are merely a few of the recurrent of apostolic imperatives that God has given to the members of His church. All of them require prayerful and purposeful pursuit. They involve personal commitment, sacrifice, and diligence. They will only truly happen in a spiritually organic manner. They will never occur through programs or organizational structure in a local church.
We love the local church of which we belong because it is God’s sphere of special, redemptive blessings in Christ (Eph. 3:10). Accordingly, we should all want to see believers giving the better part of their lives to the growth, provision and nourishment of the local church. God never intended for programs or community organization to serve as replacements for the organic acts of love and service that are of the essence of the Christian community of believers. The church exists to bring glory to God, to spread and defend the Gospel, to build up and equip the saints unto mutual edification in love, and to perform the good works for which Christ has redeemed a people (Eph. 2:10; 4:11-16). To this end, the Christian life and Christian ministry requires personal commitment, sacrifice and diligence.
There is always the danger that believers will grow weary in well doing (Gal. 6:9). When this happens many begin to look for alternatives that they believe will make them feel like a fruitful Christian. When church members cease “giving all diligence” to living out the Christian life personally and in the context of service to others in the local church they become susceptible to start trusting in programs and extracurricular activities. Many turn to programmatic churches or parachurch ministries for solutions. A mechanistic church mindset is a counterfeit to an organic church mindset. Adopting a mechanistic view of the church has detrimental consequences. Burk Parsons makes the important observation that often “the local church programs its people with so many activities that people have no time left to spend with their families and friends to enjoy life together and rest together—let alone take care of widows and orphans.” It is altogether possible to be involved in activities in a local church without being a spiritually active member of the body. Both pastors and congregants can fall into the error of embracing a mechanistic ministry mindset and start to trust in programs or external accommodations to do the work of ministry for them. This is one of the more difficult errors to identify and expose, since those who have begun to do these things are usually not aware that they have begun to do so. It is a subtle modus operandi.
To be sure, there is a proper place for church programs and parachurch ministries. In fact, the more a church is a growing organism, the more organization it will necessarily require. The implementation of programs and ministries must come as a corollary of the developing organic Christian living in the body. The more we desire what God desires for His church, the more we will better understand the blessing of the organic love and service of the members of the body. When we understand the blessing of the organic ministry among the members of the congregation, we’ll rightly utilize programs and organizational structure for the encouragement of the members towards one another.
As we enter a new year with new personal goals and desires, the Lord wants His people to commit to Christian living among the members of the body. We must resist the urge to look to practices and programs in the local church to live out the Christian life or do the work of ministry for us. Our God has given us the enormous privilege and responsibility of diligently living out, daily, our Christian lives in Christ. Let’s commit ourselves to the practice of seeking to live the organic Christian life in the context of the local church to which we belong.