The other day, I began exploring the question about applying Jesus’ teaching on logs and specks corporately to churches and communities. Steve Kneale has helpfully developed the conversation here.
At this stage I am struck by two very helpful things Steve asks us to think about. The first one is that only true heart change can deal with these issues and protect us against pride. We can easily become proud about our own church and lecture others on what they should be doing. First of all, I think the focus here is on our responsibility concerning our individual heart condition as leaders and then for the members. This includes how we view our local church and indeed the whole Church. There is a balancing act here. The Church is the bride of Christ and so loving him means we should love his bride both locally and world-wide. Sometimes the way that people talk about their own local congregation or the church more widely seems, in their concern for purity, not to carry that sense of love for the bride. On the other hand, if that love becomes a form of church based patriotism where we can allow no criticism of the church around the world or (and this is more often the case) our own local congregation then that is also problematic.
We are a made up of the individual members and so on the sorts of matters I raised in my last post, it is the heart change of each individual that will shape how we respond to situations as a church. However, I think we can also talk, analogically of course, about the heartbeat of the church itself. This is where I have found Ray Ortlund’s challenge so helpful. Do we just preach the doctrines of grace or do we have a culture of grace.
How is that culture shaped? Well, it does start with what we teach from the front. The main way that we are going to see individual hearts, and therefore the culture change is through the consistent teaching of God’s Word and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit who is both the master eye surgeon and heart consultant in chief. There are also a few other factors that come into play and which I believe we as leaders should take responsibility for. Here are some of them (this is not intended as an exhaustive list).
- People will pick up on the tone as well as the content of my preaching. Do I come across as harsh, judgemental, the perfect guy who has it all sorted? Or is there gentleness, humility and grace in what we say.
- What are we passionate about? We can have our side issue hobby horses but if these are of greater interest to us than the primary message of God’s Word then people are more likely to pick up on that than the true application.
- We need to set an example by our own lives. R Kent Hughes once said that what the church is like in macro reflects on what the pastor (or elders) family life is like in micro. This means that a lot of example setting is likely to happen naturally and subconsciously.
- Our culture will also be shaped quite heavily by wider aspects of church life. So don’t just look at your preaching. Look at what happens in Sunday School, midweek clubs and home groups. Look at what you sing. Look at the priority given to welcoming. Look even at the physical lay out and care of your building and the messages it sends. Look at the people who are involved and who is not involved. These are all indicators of the state of the heart of the church.
The second point Steve makes is that we cannot easily see the logs/specks in our own eyes and so we need help with that. Watch out for a future post talking about that.