I wrote this about 12 years ago primarily for the pastors on the Central Coast of CA.
Dear Fellow Servants of Christ’s Church on the Central Coast,
Over the last 13 ½ years of seeking to help unify the church in my region (Los Osos, Morro Bay, Cayucos), some below surface issues that have thwarted us to some degree have begun to crystallize. This week because my son is preaching for me, I have had some time to put some of these thoughts down on paper. This is in no way a finished product. If after reading it, you think it might serve as a helpful tool or resource (once it is edited and completed) I would love to get your constructive input. My email address is at the end of this document for that purpose. (Deut. 27:15-26 & Neh. 9:38f)
1. We agree that close to the heart of our Lord is the unity of His Church, and the effectiveness of our witness to a watching world is closely tied to that. (John 17:11,21,23)
2. We agree that Biblical unity is not just the defensive absence of out and out dissension, but is instead an offensive, aggressive, ongoing attempt to be “of one heart and one mind, intent on one purpose”. (Phil. 2:2)
3. We agree that the leaders of Christ’s Church on the Central Coast must lead our congregations and ministries forward in this regard, and that we will be held accountable to the Head of the Church for our obedience or lack of. (Eph. 4:11-13)
4. We agree that there are significant problems or obstacles (sin) to true Biblical unity that we must overcome by His grace and power.
5. We agree that the sheep we steward are really not ours, but His. (John 10:27, 21:15-17) We are stewards and under-shepherds. (I Cor. 4:1, I Peter 5:1) He is still the Shepherd. (John 10:11)
6. We agree that the fold these sheep belong in is best left up to the Holy Spirit, since He places the members in the body just as He desires. (I Cor. 12:18)
7. We agree that the members of Christ’s body on the Central Coast should seek and obey His placement, and the leaders must trust Him to place them appropriately.
8. We agree that the members of the Church were expected by all the New Testament writers to be a faithful contributing member of a defined fellowship of some kind. How else can one possibly fulfill all the one anothering commands such as, “…fervently love one another from the heart” ? (I Pet. 1:22)
9. We agree that every member of the Church should be under someone’s leadership and oversight. How else can one fulfill the command to “Obey your leaders and submit to them…”? (Heb. 13:17)
10. We agree that ministers of the Church should not ever elevate themselves or their ministries; rather they should at all costs exalt only Christ. (II Cor. 4:5; Gal. 6:14)
11. We agree that any marketing that in any way exalts our church or ministry in a way that implies that ours is better or more spiritual than another is not pleasing to the Lord, and harms the unity that our Lord prayed and died for. (Prov. 27:2, John 17, Phil. 2:3)
12. We agree that it is God’s business and responsibility to “confirm for us the work of our hands” and to “commend” us. We must resist the temptation to commend ourselves. Psalm 90:17, II Cor. 3:1, 10:18
13. We agree that the kingdom supercedes the Church, and that ultimately it is the kingdom that we are to be building and expanding, even if our church or ministry appears to suffer as a result. (Matt. 6:33, Acts 28:31)
14. We agree that the primary method of growing the Church and expanding the kingdom should be saving and discipling the lost. (Matt. 28:19,20). We agree we need more of the apostle Paul’s passion to “preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named..” (Rom. 15:20,21) While there may not be as many committed mature Christians to go around as we would prefer, there are plenty of lost people headed for hell that should increasingly be the focus of our ministries.
15. We agree that the only hope for the members of our congregations to learn how to resolve conflicts biblically, is for their leaders to model it with one another in our respective regions. We dare not pretend that offenses have not happened. They have, and we must humbly and obediently do whatever is in our power to rectify these offenses. (Matt. 5:23,24; 18:15f, Romans 12:18)
16. We agree that if our initial attempts at this have not been successful, we will pursue some expression of the elders of the Church on the Central Coast to step in and serve His church – recognizing the gravity of what is at stake if we do not see these conflicts resolved.
17. We agree that it is time to turn from judging one another. (Matt. 7:1) Instead we will increasingly give ourselves to affirming one another’s gifts and callings and unique contributions to what Christ is forming on the Central Coast. (Rom. 16:1,2; I Cor. 13:7; Heb. 3:13)
18. We agree that “boasting” by the big congregations needs to stop, “challenging” by the doctrinally pure congregations needs to stop,
and “envying” by the smaller congregations needs to stop if we are going to be a vital part of the Church on the Central Coast that Jesus
Christ is building. (Gal. 5:26, Matt. 16:18) It is time to “rejoice” that “Christ is proclaimed” and to leave the purifying and judging of motives to our Lord and Master. (Phil. 1:18, Rev. 2:18, 23)
19. We agree that when we hear of a fellow leader’s trouble or fall, we will not inwardly rejoice, but instead we will mourn with him, and seek in some tangible way to bear his burdens. (Prov. 24:17,18; Gal. 6:1,2)
20. We agree that it is our isolation from one another and/or lack of seeking to love one another “in deed and in truth” that sets us up for suspicion, judging, jealousy, mistrust, etc. (Prov. 18:1, I Jn. 3:18)
21. We agree that divisions and factions will happen from time to time, and that in God’s sovereignty they can actually serve us as they provide an opportunity for the mature to rise up and be counted. (I Cor. 11:18,19)
22. We agree that we are our brother’s keeper, and that it is in the best interest of our local congregations or ministries to do what we can do to see the leaders (and their spouses) of the whole church in our region thrive. (Gen. 4:9, Ecc. 4:9-11)
23. We agree that crucial to the health of the Church on the Central Coast is the headship of the home being restored to husbands/fathers. Anything and everything we do as leaders of Christ’s Church should serve this purpose, which of course is dependent upon the husband/father being submitted to Christ. ( I Cor. 11:3)
* I have capitalized “church” when I am referring to the city wide or universal church as opposed to a local congregation.