1 Corinthians 3:1-9
During one of the meetings at a conference I attended before I retired as a district superintendent in my denomination, several of my colleagues were discussing the churches in their districts that were wracked with internal strife. Churches were being torn apart, and kingdom proclamation had come to an abrupt stop. It appeared that most of the troubled churches had many common problems.
People were not happy with others about the job they were doing on the board, committee, Sunday School teaching, etc. and voiced their opinions broadly within the church.
People and pastor were on two separate paths…whether vision, goals or mission.
Misunderstandings between persons, groups or parish/pastor were left unresolved.
Petty issues of insignificant proportions that became significant…moving of a Sunday School class, removing a pulpit, placement of a baptismal tank or fount, the color of the carpet.
Moral issues of either clergy or laity. Rule of thumb is that it takes a whole generation for the church to recover after the moral lapse of a pastor.
A spirit of disunity in the church normally breaks down to a heavy dose of immaturity within the congregation. The question is, “How do we create spiritual unity in the church?” Here are some tips that will help in the process:
Spiritual Unity Comes Through Camaraderie (1 Cor. 3:1a)
“And I, brethren…”
Kenneth Chafin noted that in the third chapter, Paul was about to say some pretty devastating things to the Corinthians about their spiritual condition. However, before he launched into his tough love writing, he called them “Brethren.” The bonding glue is that they were all Christians. They held their salvation in common because Christ had transformed their lives through faith.
Spiritual unity can be created when we recall that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. The old chorus that I sang around the campfire at district teen camp explained it well, “We are one in the bond of love.” That love centers in Christ. How we view the one we are confronting is important…he or she is a brother or a sister. How would Christ confront the person?
Spiritual Unity Comes Through Solid Food (1 Cor. 3:2)
“I fed you with milk, not with solid food…”
What is the solid food we desperately need?
Deep intercessory prayer. “Like the food supply for an army, prayer simultaneously feeds the individual Christian’s spiritual growth and the church’s effectiveness in mission. If prayer is not emphasized, both starve.” (Herb Miller).
Study Scripture for the moral and spiritual precepts and principles of life. If we diligently study Scripture together, we will better understand not only God’s Word, but each other better. What a difference it could make in a church. Find a church where the Word is not studied and you will find a weak church. Find a church where the Word is studied, and you will find a strong church. That holds true for individuals, couples and families.
Obedience to God. The quicker we respond to God, the easier it is to follow. “Throughout the Bible…when God asked a man to do something, methods, means, materials and specific directions always were provided. The man had one thing to d obey, said Elisabeth Elliot.
Spiritual Unity Comes Through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:3)
“…for you are still carnal…”
The Corinthians had become short-sighted, selfish, jealous, anemic in their actions. Paul knew in Corinth who was spiritual and who was carnal. Where there is a spirit of love and unity, there are Spirit-filled Christians. Where there is strife and disharmony, there is carnality. What was needed was the fire of Holy Spirit to burn away the chaff in their lives.
“Within the church of historic Christianity there have been wide divergences of opinion and ritual. Unity, however, prevails wherever there is a deep and genuine experience of Christ; for the fellowship of the new birth transcends all historical and denominational boundaries.” (Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief)