To Which Groups Do You Belong?
All of us want to feel as though we belong. And all of us identify ourselves with a number of different groups. Whether the groupings we identify with are social , racial, economic, academic, political, religious, athletic, or otherwise, we all identify ourselves with groups that characterize the kind of person we perceive ourselves to be. The question is, to which groups do you belong?
The Bible mentions a number of different groups of people. We see familial groupings in the Old Testament, from the children of Abraham, the tribes of Israel, the sons of Issachar, etc. to groupings according to geographical location and political affiliation - the Egyptians, the Midianites, the Amalekites, and other nations. We also encounter groupings by occupation; judges, prophets, shepherds, priests, and others.
The New Testament also mentions a number of different groupings: the Jews, the Gentiles, the Romans, the Samaritans, the multitudes (Matthew 4:25; 8:1), the disciples (Matthew 8:23; 13:10), the 120 (Acts 1:15), the 70 (Luke 10:1; 10:17), the 12 (Matthew 10:2; 10:5), the 3 (Mark 5:37; 9:2 Luke 8:51; 9:28), and the one that Jesus loved (John 13:23; 21:7). And there are others not so clearly defined.
Spiritually, there are groups that God adds us to at the moment we are born again, such as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:30), the priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), the children of God (Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:2), the redeemed of the Lord (Luke 1:68; Galatians 3:13), and the saints (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 4:11-12). There are also groups or individuals to which we are called to join ourselves, like the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:17), our spouses (Mark 10:7), and to each other in the mind and heart of God (1 Corinthians 1:10).
However, our tendency to join ourselves to specific groups may not always be such a good thing. Certainly the Lord desires for us to identify with Him and to join ourselves together with His Body (1 Corinthians 1:10). But one of the problems that Paul addressed in his epistle to the Corinthians was that the believers there had gone further than just joining themselves to the mind and heart of God. 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 reveals that they had begun to squabble among themselves because they had joined themselves to various groups based on who had baptized them. They had become sectarian in their thinking. Rather than jointly having the mind of Christ, they took on the identity of their "baptizer." Could we be guilty of the same thing today as we confidently proclaim, "I'm a Baptist," or "I'm a Charismatic" or "I'm a ____________ (fill in the blank)?" Could we be dividing ourselves even further by declaring, "I'm a member of (fill in your church name here)?" Could we, in our desire to identify with Christ, actually be embracing a way of thinking that contibutes to the division of our Lord's Body?
How many of us have received the message that a Christian must find and join a local church to which he must show himself faithful? Is this really true? Before you get your knickers in a twist as they say in the UK, WE ARE NOT SAYING THAT WE SHOULDN'T GATHER TOGETHER AS THE CHURCH! It is abundantly clear in the Scriptures that we need fellowship with the saints, that God desires the corporate gathering of His people, and that mutual accountability is imperative for Christian maturity. But did the Lord intend for us to achieve these goals by formally signing a membership roster in a local church? The need to ask this of ourselves becomes clear by asking just one more simple question: how many churches are there in your community? Take a moment to answer that question before reading on.
Almost every time we ask someone this question, we receive an answer other than "one"! This indicates that most people instinctively view the Church as fragmented. Weren't we joined to Him the instant we received our salvation? Doesn't Jesus only have one Church in every community? Many congregations, yes. Many expressions of worship, yes. Many facets of doctrinal understanding, yes. Groups with different callings and functions, yes. Leaders with different revelation and methods for the equipping of the Body, yes. But only one Church!
Have we not seen precious relationships severed when a family chose to move on to a different local fellowship because they wanted more than their current fellowship could offer? Have we hungered for more, but felt that we weren't free to move on because we'd be seen as "unfaithful"? Or worse, have we ourselves been rejected or labeled as "rebellious" because we dared to leave our "camp" to seek deeper revelation?
Maybe we have been warned by well meaning leadership that we are being deceived because we are seeking revelation that our own local fellowship doesn't have. Or we may have been made to feel guilty or inferior as Christians because we aren't in "church" every time the doors are open. All these manifestations may be the fruit of a mindset that sounds right, but may actually be encouraging us to isolate ourselves from the greater Body of Christ. It may be keeping us focused on going to church instead of being the Church and going into all the world...
The question for us becomes, could our steadfast adherence to a specific group or denomination be contributing to the division that so plagues us as the Body of Christ? If so, what steps are you willing to take to change that?