For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ . . . (1 Corinthians 3:11 NRSV)
In our church, we sing the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord.” This scripture passage from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth may be the basis on which that hymn was written, and it’s a good reminder to all of us in the church that we need to put Jesus Christ first in the work, mission, and ministry that we do.
I’ve heard over and over in my lifetime that we are supposed to live in the world but not of it. So, as a pastor, I wrestle with how to help people find the tools to do such a thing. I mean, let’s face it, the “world” informs us every day – every hour – every minute. Rarely do we see people who are able to separate themselves from “the world.”
Paul saw this happening in the Corinthian church. The people were fighting over nearly everything from who had the best gifts to where their allegiance belonged for their leaders. This was a badly divided church!
I know of churches who have been divided over what color to paint the walls, which color and brand of carpeting to choose, how many chairs they needed to buy, and any number of technical things that bogged them down and distracted them. Some churches had such vehement arguments over these issues that the church split, and one group started their own congregation down the street.
For me, it is such a sad statement that we get so carried away with things that are important, but not vital to our mission and ministry. Did anyone stop to consult Jesus in the midst of all this? What would he say? I suspect (and I hardly dare speak for him, so I’m only speculating) that he would say it isn’t important. Maybe he would even go so far as to clear out the sanctuary and tell people that they had tried to turn God’s house into a showcase for Good Housekeeping magazine or something.
Where are our priorities as congregations? How do we live in the world but not of it? Paul tells us in the verse above and in this section from 1 Corinthians 3 that we are to begin with Christ as the foundation and build on that with good quality materials that consist of prayer, worship, Bible study, fellowship, etc. It doesn’t even matter how good or bad their spiritual leader was because they were just doing what God called them to do.
When a church is solidly build on Christ as the foundation, it will be strong and work together to make mission and ministry happen. It behooves all of us in churches, to take a hard look at what motivates the work we do and who it is we consult when we are making decisions. Is it Jesus Christ first, and then each other?
How does your church make decisions?
How does your church resolve conflicts?
Who is the head of your church?