When we pay attention to detail and ponder why people act as they do, we begin to see some important opportunities for growth. In the process, we find doors that we never noticed before, that open to beautiful new vistas. In the areas of fellowship and the spiritual growth of a congregation, we want to offer one such doorway that leads to the growth of God’s people.
We commonly believe that if the members of a congregation get along really well, that they are unified and constitute a strong spiritual family. However, this is not necessarily true.
Men who congregate at a café every morning for coffee are close friends but that does not mean they are a spiritual family. Likewise, a group of people who gather on Sundays and Wednesdays can be close friends, love each others company, and not necessarily be a close spiritual family. It requires more than simply good cheer, hugs and laughs.
A spiritual family is one that exists in Christ (Galatians 3:27; Acts 22:16; Acts 2:38). Its primary goal is to bring glory to Christ (Ephesians 3:20-21), which includes evangelism, worship, fellowship, and a host of other spiritual blessings. We labor diligently in the fields of the Lord in his name (Colossians 3:17).
We work with his power to accomplish the goals set forth in Scripture (Ephesians 1:19). God “put all things under [Christ’s] feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23. NKJV).
If we are not seeking to fulfill these majestic goals, we are a group of friends, but not necessarily a functional spiritual family. The Lord’s church exists to do the Lord’s work, not simply to be a social club. The task before us is too immense to ignore.
God brings spiritual families together (Acts 2:47). We can create a group around a common interest but it may not be Christ’s interest. Friendships are wonderful but if they exist within a spiritual family, they are far better. When we are united in the job of bringing souls to the Lord, we are developing the strongest bonds possible.
A group of friends knows the boundaries that exist within the group. They know the areas in which the individual members differ and they suppress them for the sake of the group. As a result, their common interests fuel their group.
Surely, we can see how this differs from Biblical unity. Paul wrote, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Unity in the Spirit means that we are united in the Lord and in God’s holy and divine Word. We speak the oracles of God (Hebrews 5:12), whether we find them palatable or not (2 Timothy 4:2). We have no right to suppress that which we not do like just so the group can be harmonious. That goes beyond our rights as children of God (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Christians submit to God and then they find spiritual unity. Just like an orchestra, we remain focused on the conductor and playing the piece that he has written. When we do, we create beautiful music.
Biblical unity is more than companionship, it is collectively moving towards the goal of heaven (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17). That will bring joyful hearts, by itself. When we are rich in his grace and mercy, we will find the spiritual unity we all crave. Let us seek it out every day!