Dear First Baptist Church

Recently, my wife shared this illustration that shows us the importance of sticking together.

Flying in a flock is the key to survival for birds living on the plains, and the best display is the annual migration of the American snow goose. A million and a half birds stop to roost in Mound City, Missouri, and the bald eagles know it. They gather to feast on this delicacy before winter comes, but geese are as big as the eagles and hard for them to catch. 

When geese sense danger, the entire flock takes flight forming what looks to the eagle like a great noisy wall. The confused eagles are not able to penetrate that united wall and harm them. But the eagles are hungry and patiently wait for another chance. 

When the weather turns colder, the geese separate into smaller groups along the shore and marshes. The eagles take advantage of the divided groups by diving over them. The geese scatter in flight and in the chaos injure their flock mates, breaking wings and leaving them vulnerable to the enemy.

I think, in some ways, this story describes the current situation of our church.

The church is the group of people who have believed in Christ for salvation and who come together to worship God and to celebrate biblical ordinances.

Christ is the most important person in the church, he is the only one who must be exalted, and everything that is done or said in the church must revolve around the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God.

The purpose of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ and teach them the Word of God, which is what we call “The Great Commission.”

To accomplish this purpose, God equipped the church with spiritual gifts. When every believer in Christ develops and uses his spiritual gifts, the church lives in harmony and unity, preaching the Word of God, providing Christian education to families and being a positive impact on the community.

One reason why we as believers in Christ fail to fulfill the Great Commission is because of division created by problems between brothers and sisters.

Philippians 4:1-3 mentions the case of Euodia and Syntyche, two prominent women from the church in Philippi who had personal problems. They had worked for the cause of Christ together with Paul, Clement, and Paul’s other co-workers (v.3). They were women who stood by the Apostle helping him bring the gospel to the gentiles and unconverted. They had suffered and worked hard for the full scope of the gospel and God’s work in Philippi. Everyone knew them, everyone knew of their work for the Lord, and their service to the Saints.

Paul also says of them that they are true and genuine believers because “their names are in the book of life” (v.3). This book is the heavenly record, in this book are written the names of those who will go to heaven, not on their own merits, but by belief in the work of Christ on the cross for his people. Only He knows the name of each one, because He wrote them Himself.

It is seen that for a time the two women had worked side by side until their conflict. Paul draws their attention and exhorts them to be of the same mind: “Euodia and Syntyche, I urge you to put aside your differences, agree, and work together in the Lord.” (v.2 The Voice). 

The problem they had is not mentioned, but it had to be serious enough for Paul himself to refer to them publicly in his letter. It had to be such disagreement that it was already common knowledge, and who knows what discord it may have been causing in their own body of believers by those taking sides.

Perhaps it was doctrinal issues or jealousy between them. We don’t know, but the enemy of our souls will use any reason to sow discord and division between us. 

It is sad to see two Christian women, mature and active in the Lord’s work, alienated from one other. Having been coworkers of Paul, preaching the gospel and fulfilling God’s purpose for the church, they were now divided. Not of the same mind in the Lord. Not collaborating in God’s work.

The pain caused by conflicts between brothers and sisters does not allow us to serve God effectively, for the mind is focused on hurt feelings and not on the need to serve God with our spiritual gifts. 

When we feel sad and wounded, we are also weak and easy prey for the enemy. We can say and do things even against the Word of God, and we can offend our brothers and sisters whom we love in Christ. We also feel the urge to get away and forget everything. 

God’s children must not leave the church because of disagreements between brothers and sisters, but remain and fight for the unity of the church.

Remember that our enemy is not our brothers and sisters in Christ, but the one who has no face, who has evil intentions. Satan came to kill and destroy and will always oppose the church because the church represents God here on earth. 

Satan is happy when a church disintegrates. He also enjoys it when a church does not comply with the Great Commission because of the weakness and confusion of internal conflicts caused by our sin nature. 

When Paul asks another member of the church in Philippi to help Euodia and Syntyche be of the same mind, he is really asking them to reconcile, that they may again deeply desire to please God with their lives, and that their focus would once again be on sharing the gospel with the lost.

We all have to ask ourselves in the light of the Bible, before God, to whom we have to account one day, “Am I at odds with any brother or sister?” 

If so, you have to act as soon as possible to resolve this matter. God will not accept your offerings, your prayers, your songs, if you are holding anything against your brother or sister. It may require humility on your part, or a painful meeting with the other person, or you may need someone’s help, but you must resolve the conflict. The goal is to reach mutual forgiveness and reconciliation for the unity of the church.

1 Peter 3:8-11 tells us that in order to seek peace among brothers and sisters, we must all be of one mind. It gives some very practical suggestions to accomplish this:

– Be compassionate, put ourselves in place of the other, apply the golden rule.

– Love each other as brothers and sisters for the Bible says love covers a multitude of sins.

– Be merciful and kind, even if undeserved.

– Be friendly, gracious and helping to others.

– Don’t return evil for evil. If we retaliate, the problem will become worse. Instead repay with a blessing.

-Don’t tell lies or spread gossip or talk about improper things. Many problems start with gossip and criticism of others. There can be no peace without controlling the tongue.

In the church of Corinth there were also internal problems that caused pain to church members. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, mentions three reasons why they should forgive the offender.

  1. So that we will not be overwhelmed by discouragement. vs. 5-7
  2. We must forgive because forgiveness is a commandment. v. 9
  3. So that Satan does not take advantage of us. v. 11

If we, those of us who belong to First Baptist Church, want to have a healthy, victorious church that glorifies the name of God and is an example of faith in our community; if we want our church to be the ideal place for our children and grandchildren to learn of God’s love; and if we want to be used by God to fulfill the Great Commission, we must be willing to let God speak into our lives, and we must let the Holy Spirit do a transformative work in our minds and hearts. 

An effective way to overcome conflicts is to change animosity and resentment for acts of kindness.

I believe that there are two things that each of us should adopt as part of the spiritual healing that we need. The first thing we must do is examine our lives in the light of God’s Word.

  1. We must examine our hearts and be sure that we have not become carnal Christians, who act with the sin nature and not with the Holy Spirit by denying support of our leaders.
  1. Remove the things from our lives that hinder us, so that we can serve God effectively using the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gave us.
  1. Do away with things from our lives that break the unity of the church, such as gossip, murmuring, and harmful intentions.
  1. Learn to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

The second thing we must do is pray without ceasing, which means to pray with recurring prayer, as a way of life.

  1. Pray that God will help us make the necessary adjustments to our spiritual lives so that we can focus on what we really should be doing as a church.
  1. Pray that God will use us as peacemakers. Remember that God loves peace between brothers and sisters.
  1. Pray for our leaders that God may give them wisdom to lead us through this stage that as a church we are going through.
  1. Pray God’s blessings for those who do not share our ideas or who have a different way of thinking.
  2. Pray for the unity and harmony of the church.
  3. Pray that together, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to make the decisions that glorify God and build his church.

I invite you to remain in the church and together fight the common enemy that all Christians have. 

The enemy wants to divide us. God wants to unite us. 

The enemy wants people to remain lost. God wants to use us to preach and teach salvation in Christ. 

The enemy wants us to dislike each other. God wants us to love one other.

The enemy wants to destroy God’s church and wants to use us to achieve it.

I ask you this: Who are you going to serve?

Joshua said, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

In Christ,

Pastor Ismael Lopez