The Jerusalem church is a stellar example of success for God’s kingdom.* They continued to grow and continued to grow and then they faced persecution and were blown apart. Then they continued to grow and continued to grow. But this doesn’t mean they were problem free. After all, there were people in those churches too, just like there are people in churches today. They had humongous internal problems that threatened to rip them apart, but they dealt with them aggressively and overcame. In this post, I want to share with you the three major internal problems they faced. We’ll examine how they handled each one in later posts.
(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the tenth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
Problem Solving Not Problem Free
As we continue to look at the Jerusalem church as a model for all congregations, we will notice victory after victory. We will see positive example after positive example. We may begin to wish we could be more like the Jerusalem church. If we were, then we wouldn’t have all the problems we have now.
That, however, is not true. The Jerusalem church had people in it just like we do. Those people were imperfect sinners just like we are. Do you understand what that means for that congregation? It means they had problems.
In Acts 3, there was the persecution problem. In Acts 5, there was the hypocritical members problem. In Acts 6, there was the partiality problem. In Acts 15, there was the circumcision problem. These are just the problems that we see recorded. No doubt in the Jerusalem congregation people got their feelings hurt. No doubt tensions flared. People struggled with sin. People argued with each other. Someone was slighted. Someone didn’t get invited to a party. Someone taught something that was incorrect. Some people lost their jobs. Some people had marriage struggles and parenting struggles. Their leaders made mistakes. On and on the list would go.
We don’t see problem-free in Jerusalem. Rather, we see a group of people committed to solving and overcoming the problems as quickly as possible. Because they admitted their problems, faced their problems, and worked on their problems, they had a surprising amount of unity.
What other choice did they have? There were no other churches to run to. If they were going to stay with Christ and His church, they were going to stay in that congregation. It didn’t occur to them to solve the problem by starting the East or Westside congregation.
No doubt the numerous congregations in many places is a blessing in some ways. However, it can also be a curse as people who want problem-free hop from church to church instead of facing the problems. Sadly, all too often, the reason we never face the problems is because we fear we might find out that we are the problem. It is easier to run away than recognize that dealing with the problem may mean we have to deal first with ourselves.
Don’t try to develop a church that is free of problems. That will never happen. Rather, develop a congregation that deals with the problems at hand. That is the Jerusalem vision.
(Keep coming back. This post wraps up our look at the Jerusalem Vision. As we continue looking at the Jerusalem church we are going to see seven principles that caused them to set the world ablaze.)