|Bush River Baptist Church, Newberry County, SC (1771)|
Later in the article he adds, “Churches are not plateaued in membership and declining in baptisms only because of people who no longer attend. We need to think afresh about what it means to be a covenant member of a Baptist congregation.”
Dockery’s concerns for Southern Baptist churches in the 21st century is an echo of Paul’s heart for the Colossian church in the first century.
Contextual Notes: We have been working our way through the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae in southwestern Asia Minor. Paul is writing this letter from house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar’s supreme court on a charge of sedition against the government. Paul is concerned about the Colossian church’s health. Their pastor, a man named Epaphras, has come to report to him the unhealthy directions that some there are heading in their teaching and practice. In today’s passage, Paul transitions into his concerns for the Colossian church. His instruction contains principles for all Christian churches.
Pray and Read: Colossians 2:1-5
1I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and those in Laodecia, and for those who have not seen my face in the flesh, 2in order that their hearts, encouraged and knit together in love also in the riches of the fullness of understanding, in the knowledge of the mystery of God, of Christ, 3in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden. 4This I say in order that no one may deceive you with enticing words. 5For though absent in flesh, nevertheless being with you in spirit, rejoicing and seeing your order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Key Truth: Paul wrote Colossians 2:1-5 to teach the Colossian Christians that a healthy church grows in fellowship, in maturity, and in unity in the faith.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about having a healthy church.
- A healthy church grows in sweet fellowship (Col 2:1-2).
- A healthy church grows in mature disciples (Col 2:2-4).
- A healthy church grows in faithful unity (Col 2:5).
Exposition: Note well,
1. A HEALTHY CHURCH GROWS IN SWEET FELLOWSHIP (COL 2:1-2).
a. “1I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and those in Laodecia, and for those who have not seen my face in the flesh, 2in order that their hearts, encouraged and knit together in love”
b. Dockery: “For as we have already mentioned, no longer can a cultural homogeneity or a programmatic pragmatism be the foundation of our cooperation. One of the things, however, that will get the attention of the world and authenticate our confession will be the way that we love one another, the way that we celebrate our ethnic and geographical diversity and the way that we serve and worship together in harmony. We need to expand our horizons with a renewed dedication to ethnic diversity and racial reconciliation, looking forward to a day in which a great multitude from every nation and all tribes, people groups and tongues shall stand before the Lamb (Revelation 7:9).
c. APPLICATION: Healthy churches enjoy one another. When a congregation clears out as soon as the service is over, that’s a bad sign. No one wants to be with one another. When members regularly linger after the service, that’s a sign of fellowship. When members start Bible studies together or visit one another or go out to eat together, that’s a good sign about the fellowship in that church.
d. But what about you? They say to have friends you must show yourself friendly. What are you doing to encourage fellowship among our church? Are you serving in an area of hospitality? Are you speaking to new people you have not yet met? Should you be more involved in a Sunday School class or a women’s or men’s or co-ed group? Are you introducing yourself? Or do you just come here for a Scripture meal and dart out the door as soon as the service is over? Are you here on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights when you are able in order to get to know your church better, or are you just here on Sunday morning and no one hears from you until the next week if you feel like getting up? Are a significant number of your friends in this church?
e. And how may we increase fellowship in the church? Contrary to what most Baptists believe, fellowship is not a synonym for a covered dish dinner. Fellowship is a heart connection. Do our Sunday School classes need to schedule more times to be with one another and minister together? Do we need more small group Bible studies?
2. A HEALTHY CHURCH GROWS IN MATURE DISCIPLES (COL 2:2-4).
a. Verses 2-3: “also in the riches of the fullness of understanding, in the knowledge of the mystery of God, of Christ, 3in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.
b. Verse 4: 4This I say in order that no one may deceive you with enticing words.
c. David Dockery: “We must also sadly acknowledge that over the course of the past six decades or so, Southern Baptists have allowed our priorities to gradually shift from Christian faithfulness and spiritual maturity to numerical growth and programmatic efficiency. Not that a concern for numerical growth or efficiency is wrong in any way at all. The shift in priorities was probably quite unintentional at first, but slowly, almost unconsciously, a greater disparity has developed between our reported total membership and the actual number of active and participating members in our churches.”
d. Dockery: “We need to think about the importance of faithfulness and maturation of church members. Helping people understand the gospel, helping guide them to faith in Christ and leading them to become church members is paramount, but helping them understand the biblical expectations of faithful Christ-followers in covenant with one another is also extremely important.”
e. APPLICATION: Importance of teaching word is for maturity, so you can do what Christians do, like share your faith, teach your children the Bible, start Bible studies and ministry groups, not just so we can be knowledgeable.
f. Be careful where you get your understanding of reality. Be discerning. The following are not good places toyou’re your viw of spiritual reality most of the time.College/university. TV preachers. Oprah. Dr. Phil. Training programs at work. Power of Positive thinking. Country music. Other popular music. Convenience store.
3. A HEALTHY CHURCH GROWS IN FAITHFUL UNITY (COL 2:5).
a. Verse 5: “5For though absent in flesh, nevertheless being with you in spirit, rejoicing and seeing your order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”
b. Dockery: “Moving into the second decade of the 21st century, Southern Baptists also need a new spirit of mutual respect and humility to serve together with those with whom we have differences of conviction/opinion/preference. It is possible to hold hands with brothers and sisters who disagree on secondary and tertiary matters of theology and practice, and still work together toward a common good to extend the work of Southern Baptists around the world and advance the kingdom of God.
c. Dockery: We need God’s Spirit to bring about a new spirit among us, one that calls for humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance with one another in love and a diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3). Southern Baptists must work to build and establish a much-needed consensus around the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
d. APPLICATION: Moravian maxim: In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity. We all have our pet issues. You have a right to your opinion, but it is not necessarily right because you think it. Give your opinion, but then have the grace and humility to submit it to the Word and be willing to be wrong.