Don’t be precious about partnership in the gospel. Seriously. God himself is not – at least, not in the ways we might think. Scripture bears this out.
In the Old Testament there are some bizarre (to us) partnerships or allegiances with some who were not the right sort to have dealings with – and in some cases – with people who did not believe in the God of the Jews. No matter – for what God is doing is higher, broader, wider than the definitions and classifications we can grasp. We have enough to go on – and should trust him with the rest.
In the New Testament we have a struggle for the Jewish Christians to believe that the Gentiles can believe – or have any part of their faith. Even when Christ is being preached, there is disagreement! Apollos and Paul being the obvious example. In 1 Corinthians Paul ‘gets to it’ and lays it out for the Church in Corinth. A place of tribes and preferences and prejudices – some say we follow Apollos some say Paul. Paul says – pathetic!
I love this verse, I just wish it was preached on more. ‘Neither the one who plants, nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow’ 1 Corinthians 3 verse 7.
This should free us from fear! Free us from the fear of failure, the inferiority of comparison – there is no sense that either Paul nor Apollos themselves were jealous of each other . . . At least, on Paul’s part there was a disregard for who thought what about who – which part of the work was more valued – watering? Planting? God gives the increase!
So – let’s not be precious about who we will partner with (how arrogant we can be), our own credentials the gospel tells us are as filthy rags! We have no idea from scripture of Paul and Apollos’ doctrinal agreements or disagreements – are we fighting over who gets to hold the bag of seed or how big the watering can needs to be, or who gets to have a go? We also might be staggered at who is willing to join in with us and create the right environment for that seed to flourish (with the right tendering) – in some cases not even Christians.
I once watched a gospel chance implode over such fighting.
A dilapidated church hall was almost unusable by a church because the floor had buckled – due to some ground problems with water and the way the hall had been built. In doing some detached youth work, I discovered that the local authority wanted to engage in the community around my church – they were looking for a base of operations. Not many places where suitable. Our hall was like a gift . . The local authority were up for rebuilding the hall, sorting out the floor – getting it go functions again – if they could run a few groups out of it. The church would reap the benefit – the Kingdom would in fact, as we would be able to get back in there and do some stuff . . .
Only problem was – the local authority youth work might give out things like condoms to young people! Despite the fact we were going to get a completely new building, that we could actually use – despite the fact that the church wasn’t going to have to pay for it; despite the pact that we could remain in our own hall and – in most nights -do what we liked. The leaders did not go for it because of the dreaded ‘c’ word – what the leaders thought of as compromise.
Oh no. I even took one of the detached youth workers to a leadership meeting to have them reject the plan to this guys face. All because the local authority leaders ‘might’ help young people who weren’t Christians behave responsibly . . . We had it all coming our way – we didn’t need to fix the halls, apart from two nights in the week – we could use it how we wanted to, we would received publicity and have regular contact with a load of people we didn’t know yet, the profile of the church as a place if blessing would have increased – it was all there. On a plate. It was chucked away. ‘No, we must not compromise’. What wasn’t said was, ‘we would rather slide into oblivion than partner with any other than committed Christians from our own denomination who attend our conferences listen to our kind of worship music, read the books we read, listen to the speakers we enjoy and don’t take money from the lottery or work with unbelievers’.
Lost opportunity because we might have ‘compromised the gospel’. The gospel cannot be compromised – that’s just it! As it didn’t fit with solely Paul or Apollos, it didn’t just fit in the confines of my church leadership meeting; nor in the congregation who usually attended Church;
A chance went begging.
Listen! The gospel is not chained, it cannot be shackled by what we believe God’s preferences might be – we have to get rid of that nonsense and trust the Holy Spirit to be at work in all we come into contact with.
A gospel that brings freedoms and peace – don’t implode it with a narrow view of the gospel. Don’t divide the Church over a Paul or an Apollos. Don’t determine that your ‘denomination’, ‘stream’, ‘network’ has cornered the market on gospel ministry!
I walked away from that church, that narrow vision, that dismissive approach to those to yet kingdom focused – I found then – and still do today, how many who are not yet Christians have Kingdom minded actions – whilst some of those who have the ‘kingdom words’ lack the heart and passion to back it up with Kingdom work.
What opportunities do you let go begging for the sake of a ‘pure’ gospel?
How many churches are there in your town or village and do you ever have a conversation?
If the church you know could forget about Paul and Apollos – what might be achieved?
If the church you know could invest in the lives of ALL in your community without favour or prejudice – what might be achieved?
Let’s not limit the power of the gospel to transform lives! Build that relationship, talk to the police, the local youth work team, that church down the road with the funny hymn books – break down some walls and barriers and let’s move from an imploded gospel to an exploding gospel that spreads like wild fire, catching as it goes the hearts of men and women we had never imagined might come to know God!