Well first off, I want to thank all of our Community Groups, and each of you leaders, for the feedback you gave on Wednesday night in your meetings. Last Sunday, of course, we had the joint service with First Baptist, and so this past Wednesday, while it was fresh, we asked for your thoughts about the service and about the marriage opportunity in general. And specifically we asked for the abiding challenges and concerns you might have, and I’m grateful that you gave us that feedback. Please do keep the feedback coming — because it’s important.
And so now, in light of that, I want to just talk a little about how we should be thinking about the way we’re thinking about this marriage opportunity. So we’ve asked for feedback, you gave us feedback, and now, we should asking together: how do we assess the feedback? What do we do with the feedback? And this is for all of us. We’re all in the same boat.
There are two categories I want to mention that might be helpful.
First, there’s how to think about challenges. And then second, there is how to think about collective decision-making in a local church.
When it comes to the challenges, there’s a spectrum. On one side of the spectrum are challenges, and then on the other side are what we might call a deal-breakers. Challenges are things that we foresee as being difficult. They may be things that we dislike, things that we prefer to be different, things that will be tough — and it’s really important that we get them on the table. It’s important that we are sober-minded and that we’re aware that this path will not be easy. There are challenges (I’ve got a list!). We need to recognize them.
But then on the other side of the spectrum are the deal-breakers.
Challenges are things that we each think will be difficult, and then deal-breakers are the reasons that our church should not do this. So we just need to know that there’s a difference between the two. And that’s probably obvious, but it’s good to remember. Our Community Group talked about this on Wednesday. And having this category can help us think about our thinking.
Now, the second category is about collective decision-making in the local church (it’s connected).
When we make decisions as a corporate body, those decisions are not the sum total of everyone’s individual preferences. Again: collective decision-making is not the sum total of everyone’s individual preferences. Or in other words, we shouldn’t think on the level of: “What is every individual’s thoughts and preferences?” and then add all that together to determine what we do as a corporate body. For one, that just doesn’t work because a lot of those things are mutually exclusive. One person likes something that another person doesn’t like, and that just repeats itself.
But another reason we have to think beyond this level of individual thoughts and preferences is because being part of a local church means we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. So eventually, because we are the church, we have to think beyond our individual perspective.
Which then means, while it’s really important to acknowledge all the challenges, and be honest about our preferences and thoughts, our individual preferences and thoughts can’t really equate what we as the church should do. It’s like there are really two different questions we’re all asking. The first question is “What do I find challenging?”; but then the second question is “What is God calling our church to do?”
And it’s this latter question that requires us to step back and remember the anchor realities that we all believe as Christians who cherish the gospel. Collective decision-making in the local church is discerning how God is guiding his people, and that means we need to think on his terms: What seems best for our church in light of God’s kingdom coming on this earth? What seems best for our church in light of God’s economy where seeking to save your life means you lose it, and losing your life for Jesus’s sake means you find it? (Matthew 16:25) And that it’s only when a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies that it bears much fruit? (John 12:24). What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? What does God think about all this? What is God doing here?
Those are the questions, eventually, we want to start asking. And still, we may not all have the same answers, but at least we will be thinking from the same place — and that’s what it means to have unity.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ,” Paul says, “any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:1–2). Which means, again, not that we all think the same, but that we’re thinking from the same place, from the same perspective, for the same goal.
And that’s what we want. That’s what we need as a church, and that’s what we must ask God to do.
Prayer of Confession
Father, you see all the hearts of the children of man. You know how we think and feel. You know what we love and desire. You know it all. And Father, we need you to know. We need you to see us and we need you to guide us. We need you to shape us. We want to love what you love. And so we ask that you would forgive us for all the things in our hearts contrary to your affections. We confess that we have those things, in our thoughts, in our words, in our actions, and we know that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we come now to confess our individual sins to you. . . .
Father, we thank you for Jesus who laid down his life to make us yours forever. In that great love, by your Spirit, accomplish in us all that you desire, in Jesus’s name. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
Church, because Jesus loves you, because he died for you and was raised for you, and because you have been united to him by faith, and this morning you have confessed your sins . . .
By the authority of Jesus Christ, and as a minister of his gospel, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!