By Rev. L. Althouse
June 18, 2006
Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:1-15. Devotional Reading: Matthew 13:3-9.
Five of the scariest words that can be uttered to a homeowner are: “You have a foundation problem.”
So it is for any church. A church with foundation problems is a church in trouble. But even worse are problems with spiritual foundations. Paul says to the church at Corinth, “… like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.” (3:10)
Our churches do have spiritual foundations. Some churches were built upon the pioneering work of one or more itinerant preachers.
Others were founded upon the efforts of a determined family or group of lay people. Some have flowered and matured under charismatic leadership, clergy and/or lay. But, important as these people were and still are, they are not the foundations of their churches.
Sometime ago when I was in a Dallas district court I heard the presiding judge bawl out an attorney who objected to a ruling the judge made, saying “Get this straight: I can do whatever I like in MY court!” I thought to myself, “It is not your court; it belongs to the people.” I can also recall overhearing people who said, “They’re not going to do that in my church.”
All of us need to seriously consider what Paul said: “…no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (3:11)
We also need to pay attention when we sing: “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, our Lord.” If I say that a particular church is ‘my church,’ I need to understand, not that it belongs to me, but that I belong to it and, in fact, that we all belong to Christ.
We sometimes identify ourselves as siding with one person in the church in opposition to another.
I’ve never heard someone say that they’re part of the group that’s trying to get rid of the minister, that’s jockeying to replace the chairperson of the board, that’s threatening to withhold their financial support, or threatening to leave the church.
But I’ve known lots of situations in which people were dividing in that fashion.
To whom you belong
Paul says that, behaving in that manner, we show ourselves to be “babes in Christ,” not mature, spiritual people. “For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another, ‘I belong to Apollo,’ are you not merely men? What then is Apollo? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed… I planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the growth.” (3:4-6)
If they cannot - actually will not - settle disagreements amicably, then, those infantile Christians should not be - and are not - leaders in the church.
In my denomination there is recurrent talk of a split over various issues. Some people are inviting others to leave, threatening that, if not, then they will leave. All factions accuse the others of failing to take seriously the teachings of Christianity.
Yet, most of these people fail to take seriously Paul’s teachings regarding unity in the church. Are any of these supposed “errors” any more erroneous than dividing the body of Christ?
Factionalism and dissention in the church are often the results of arrogant pride. I have never known a humble person who disturbed the peace of the church. Church factions flourish like toadstool on a drenched lawn because people decide “I am right and you are wrong!”
We all need to read again and again Paul’s admonition: “He who plants and he who waters are equal…For we are fellow workers together for God; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (3:7-9)
This farm news was published in the June 14, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.