So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Phi 2:1-5 ESV)
The Rev. Emyrs Tyler, moderator of Susquehanna Valley Presbytery for 2015, has written a very good article for the Presbytery this month.
Emyrs astutely notes:
Every program for church renewal says it in some form or another, whether it’s Acts 16:5 or New Beginnings or Natural Church Growth. Every method for recentering Christ’s Church addresses the problem of asking the wrong question….What do I do now? is a radically different question than What is God doing in me right now? The first invites us to plan, schedule, and evaluate based results. The second considers every interruption a divine opportunity.
Emyrs is right: every “program” for church renewal deals with the problem of asking wrong questions. Wrong questions look to programs, that is, things we do: planning, scheduling, and evaluating what we do, while utilizing scarce resources of time, money, and people. Programs are not bad in and of themselves; in fact programs are essential in channeling renewal and growth. However, programs are never a means (or especially the source), of renewal.
Renewal requires recentering, putting first things first. Renewal requires asking the right question, not of doing but being: not “what shall I do?” but “what should I be?”
What do I mean? Dr. Sinclair Ferguson helps to illustrate the difference between doing and being:
Years ago, I had a somewhat painful encounter with this “tell us and we’ll do it” mentality. Halfway through a Christian students’ conference where I was speaking on the assigned theme “Knowing Christ,” I was summoned to meet with a deputation of staff members who seemed to feel duty-bound to confront me with the inadequacies of my first two expositions of Scripture.
“You have addressed us for two hours,” they complained, “and yet, you have not told us one single thing to do.”
Impatience to be doing hid impatience with the apostolic principle that it is only in knowing Christ that we can do anything (cf. Phil. 3: 10; 4: 13)—or so it seemed to me at the time.
Renewal requires asking “what should I be?” Renewal requires answering with a number of robust questions and answers: “I should be like Christ!” “But how do I become like Christ?” “I become like Christ by knowing Him!” This is the key: by knowing Christ, we become like Christ; by becoming like Christ we are then able to do. Knowing Christ is not knowledge about Christ. It includes this, but it is much more. Knowledge means intimate relationship and conformity to Christ. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. There is a deep transformative interpenetration. Like Paul, we long to know Christ by the transformative power of His resurrection (building up) in our lives, and by sharing in the transformative power of his suffering (tearing down). In short God transforms us by breaking us and then building us up, by afflicting us in our comfort of self-satisfaction, pride, and impatience, and then by comforting us in our affliction with words of forgiveness, bringing hope, patience, and satisfaction in Him.
The cycle of breaking us down and building us up is the only method or source of renewal. This continual cycle of breaking and building is the only way Christ remains center, and is the only method of recentering Christ in us and in His Church. The cycle of breaking and building is not something we do, but what is done to us by Christ conforming us to His image. As John Piper says, “As we are conformed to the image of Christ, he is made more and more the center of all things.”
This is our method of renewal: conforming to the image of Christ. As you ponder this, ask yourself these questions. Am I being conformed to the image of Christ? Is your church being conformed in Christ’s image? The way to know this is by answering more penetrating questions: in humility are we counting others MORE significant than ourselves, or are conceit and rivalry among us? Are we looking out for the interests of others in collaboration with our own interests (that is, loving others as we love ourselves), or are we pitting our interests against others in the body of Christ (that is, loving ourselves at the expense of others)? Do we have the same mind? Do we have the same love? All of the best music programs in the world won’t renew a church where division, rivalry, conceit abound! Division, rivalry, and conceit are all evidence of a self-centered, not Christ-centered church. May we strive to become more Christ-centered in our lives and in our churches!
Selah (Reflect on this.)