Once upon a time there was a new Christian. He was in his early twenties, had just recently gotten saved. And he was part of a small church that met in a high school auditorium every Sunday. As the months went by he became more and more involved in the church, serving in various ministries, helping pick up trash on the highway, helping develop sermon series, and so on and so forth. But increasingly this young man found himself at odds with the pastor there. He questioned the pastors methods. He would post passive aggressive remarks on his Facebook account for all the church to see. He would write blog posts. He would argue with the pastor about methods and evangelism and goals. He never felt like they were doing enough. And eventually he angrily left the church after a final dispute with the pastor. This guy was me. And I sinned in all this. The truth was God, was leading me to the Salvation Army. So I’m sure I was meant to leave that church and go to another. But the way I did it was evil. At the time I was just so sure I was the hero of the situation, bravely fighting for the truth. But I wasn’t. I was the rebel. And I made it hard for that pastor, his name was Aaron, to do his job. And I regret that. And I’m so sorry for what I did.
Our topic today relates to this, today we are talking about church life! How does it work? Well, we are the body of Christ – meaning we actually do the things that Jesus did while he was on the Earth. We share the gospel, gather together, disciple one another, grow together, make use of our spiritual gifts, and uphold society in goodness.
But today we’re discussing the real nuts and bolts of how the church functions. We are all Christians, gathered together. Some have made commitments to be soldiers, they are our members, you might say. Then you have the elders, the corps council that discuss church issues and make decisions. Then you have your pastors, they lead the flock, with the guidance and support of the elders. Over the pastors are what are called “bishops.” They tend to be in charge of groups of many churches. In The Salvation Army it functions this way. We have attenders, that’s everyone here. Then we have soldiers, who are official church members and serve in various ministries. Then we have soldiers who serve on the corps council, which makes them “elders.” Officers, like myself, we wear red, are the pastors of The Salvation Army. And our bishops are called divisional commanders. Then you have territorial leaders over them, and international leaders over them. It’s a sort of hierarchical structure in the church.
But the government of a church really depends on which denomination you’re a part of. Other churches may have priests as their leaders, or ministers, or they may have a church council or a church board, some denominations vote on their decisions, others have a sort of constitution they follow or amend as needed. It’s all just minor adjustments, and honestly I can’t really say there is one right way.
I think The Salvation Army is a biblical church movement. But I also tend to think most other churches in the area are also legitimate expressions of biblical Christianity. We all serve in different ways to bring people to Jesus and meet needs.
Since being here in Owosso, we’ve impacted thousands of people in our area toward Jesus, and we’ve met needs all over. Now most of those people did not join our salvation army church, but many of them did return to churches they once attended, or joined other churches near them, or at least began to explore the possibility of a relationship with Christ. That’s victory to me. I don’t really care if they join the Salvation Army, or a different biblical church. As long as they come to know Jesus and follow Jesus, then I’m happy.
I hope that’s your attitude as well.
But if you are here, at The Salvation Army, I’m sure God is calling you to be here and to serve here. At least for the present time. God will lead us to the church where he wants us to serve. I’m sure of that.
So how do we functions as a group of believers? First of all, we follow the leading of our leaders. We don’t complain against our leaders. We don’t make unfounded accusations against our leaders. We don’t argue with our leaders. The only exception is if we notice a serious concern in the theology of the church, something is not biblical and it disrupts our witness of the gospel. Other than that, there really is no ground for grumbling, complaining, arguing, or fighting against your leaders. In the same way, I may not agree with everything my headquarters tells me to do, but I follow their lead in everything. And honestly, I’m happy to do so. Because if I don’t agree with some idea or initiative, I remind myself, I’m often wrong. So I trust their leadership. And I love them. I show them respect and affection. I appreciate them. And I hope you appreciate me as your leader. And I hope you appreciate the soldiers who serve here at this church. Bless them, don’t curse them.
The word of god says, “Hebrews 13:17 ESV “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
So if I need to correct you on something, please respond in contemplation and humility. Let me do this with joy, not with groaning. And honestly, there’s been some groaning lately, on my behalf. I don’t correct or rebuke because I enjoy it. I do it because I will have to give an account for those Christians who were under my care, before the God of heaven and Earth. And if I say, oh, I noticed they were gossiping, I noticed they were causing arguments and divisions, and hatred and strife, but I didn’t say anything to them; I’m going to be in big trouble with God.
We struggle with the idea of authority over us I think. Many of us have been burned and hurt by authorities in our lives. But I want to remind you today: There can be good authorities over us, good people, who love God, and are really serving with love and truth. And that’s the right kind of authority.
So brothers and sisters don’t live in rebellion. Rebellion is a terrible thing. I recall when Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness, there were two men Jannes and Jambres, who constantly complained and whispered against Moses leadership. They spread rumors and dissensions, and led more and more people to their ranks. And eventually they rebelled against Moses, and 3,000 people joined them. But they were in the wrong. They rebelled against the authority God himself had put in place. And all of them died.
A biblical church is united. Not gossiping against one another, not fighting each other, but serving with joy together, serving for Jesus. Submitting to one another in love. What does it meant to submit to one another? It means to allow someone else to have the lime light, it’s allowing someone else to have their way. Maybe its your job to wipe down the tables but you notice someone else doing it, do you get mad, or just let them do it. Maybe you notice someone in your seat in the van, you always sit there, but now they are there. Submit to them, let them sit there. No big deal.
I know there’s been gossip going on again in the church. And we really need to stop that right here and right now. Gossip is deadly to a church. Gossip is when we hear a rumor about someone, or an accusation, and then we go to our friend, at church, or in the church van, or when we’re at the store, and we say, “Hey, guess what I heard about so and so.” That is what we call gossip. And the bible repeatedly condemns gossip as a sin. As something very evil. The Bible tells us the tongue can be a very wicked thing that spews out evil. Watch your tongues friends. Watch what you say.
The Bible says on judgment day we will give an account for every idle word we spoke across our whole lives. That’s serious stuff. So watch what you say. But if you hear something about someone, and you’re concerned, the biblical thing to do is go directly to that person, sit down one on one and talk to them about it. Beautiful thing to do. But it’s hard too. So what do we often do instead? Instead of going directly to the person, we go to someone else and gossip about it. Evil. Because we’re spreading rumors that may not even be true. And we’re slandering their character in secret. That wrong my friends. Very wrong. Don’t gossip, as your pastor I’m challenging you today, kill the gossip. Watch your tongue. Pray about this, God will help you.
And finally, as the church, we want to be practicing our spiritual gifts. Let me ask you this: Have you discovered what your gifts are? God has given each of us unique gifts, and they’re all different.
There are several lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible, one list is in Romans 12, another in Ephesians 4, but we’re going to quick look at the list in 1st Corinthians 12.
Think about it: Which of these gifts might you have?
administration - do you like paperwork? managing stuff? Could be your gift
apostle- a gifting similar to church planting, leadership in the body of Christ, bringing about great change, reformation
discernment - you have a talent for understanding the real meaning of things, whether when viewing theology, or philosophy, or politics, you see through deception and lies to the core truth of issues.
faith- you have great faith, when others doubt you stay strong in trust
healings - are you able to pray for someone and they are healed? You have this gift.
helps - you are a helper, you serve others
knowledge - you are able to give a "word of knowledge." God tells you something about someone, to tell them.
miracles- a rare gift, to perform miraculous signs and wonders. Never met someone with this gift, not yet anyway.
prophecy- God tells you future events, and you speak them to others, to help others.
teaching- talented at teaching the word of God
tongues- able to speak in heavenly languages
tongues interpretation- able to interpret heavenly languages
wisdom- has great wisdom about life to share with to others
Pray about these gifts. If one sticks out, write it down, and then tonight ask God to reveal if you have that gift. If he does reveal that you have that gift, develop that gift in your life. Then God will call you to use that gift. Very exciting. So in conclusion today, be the church. Submit to your authorities. Trust the Bible. Share the gospel. Don’t gossip. Don’t argue with your leaders. Don’t rebel against God or your leaders. Stand firm in the faith. Stand firm in unity.