Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Need to Stand Firm and Resist

What is the church to do when persecution results? The church is to stand firm against the enemies of our Lord, whether these enemies are human or demonic. In light of this, churches are to be wary, vigilant, and refuse to give in to the tactics of the enemy. That calls for standing on the foundation of the Word. It's like a sumo wrestler taking up his position on a mat; the church and its leaders retain their balance, but if they are strong in the Word and ready for such an assault, they will not easily be moved, let alone knocked down. Unlike the sumo wrestler, we have much more than a skimpy loincloth; we have the complete armor of God at our disposal. A friend of mine I'll call Austin pastors a progressive church in a fairly large city. After he began his ministry there, he learned two factions had kept the church divided for ten years. Both of these factions had different ideas no what the church was to do. He called me one day and asked if I would be willing to help his people come to a new vision for the church. Austin wanted me to give an outside perspective and help unify the two split factions within his church. The leaders and I met in a pleasant country setting, about an hour's drive away from the church. We spent the first hour in prayer and worship. Then, as we rose from our time of worship, I asked each of the church leaders and their wives to share their burden for the church. I jotted notes as they spoke. Amazingly, I kept hearing the same thing, which is unusual when you have factions like this. Of course, it was all phrased in different words and different ways, but it was basically the same thing. They wanted to glorify God and to do His will though the body. With this clarified, we capitalized on how we could glorify God and make ourselves available as vessels to function in His body. We turned to problems that might hinder the body, the Lord brought conviction and repentance to these members. At that point, we moved on to the vision the Lord wanted to give these leaders. Several Scriptures helped the leaders' thinking: "Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest" (John 4:35)., "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31), and "Bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). Before the weekend retreat was finished, it appeared everyone had moved toward the mind of Christ-one mind leading the entire body. The folk understood they might see things differently from others, but that was only because each had different gifts that guided their hopes and desires. Now seeing this for what is was, they realized their factionalism had been a lie of Satan. In reality, they were much more unified than they originally thought. And there was as brand-new commitment to serving together for the glory of God. Recently I was able to talk with Austin about the results of this meeting; he described a new enthusiasm-an enthusiasm the church had never experienced in the previous ten years. Now their Sunday evening gatherings began with prayer, which usually lasts an hour or more before they actually get to the preaching. They're bringing more diversified people into the body. A new love for each other permeates the body. And there is fresh understanding of the work of the enemy. "Understanding the lies of the enemy and understanding the mind of Christ has brought new life into the church, "Austin concludes. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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