But I like...!

One of the interesting passages in the New Testament is 1 Cor. 1:10-18. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth; and in the opening pages of his letter he is concerned about the church and its mission. He says he has heard that there was quarreling going in the church; serious enough to hinder the unity within the congregation; and ultimately negating the church’s influence in the community. The “divisions” (Greek word here is “schisma”) were NOT coming from outsiders or unbelievers however; these quarrelsome divisions were coming from believers inside the church! What was the substance of these quarrels? Preferences, pride, and personalities!There were various factions in the church who liked different leaders and their particular style over another. There was also a “super-spiritual” group in the church … “The Jesus Group.” While many in the church followed the particular styles of dynamic leaders like Paul, Peter, Apollos, or others; this super-spiritual group claimed to follow “Christ.” They no doubt claimed the “superior” position over all the other groups! Paul however puts them all into the same category … they were destroying the witness and mission of the church!

The church was supposed to show Christ’s care and compassion for the lost, to show the unity of believers in reaching a broken and lost humanity.Instead it was fighting over style and personalities within the church, trying to prove which of them is superior to the others! Paul immediately tries to draw their attention to the one thing that should have been preoccupying them all; “preaching the Gospel” … the power of the cross; not being cross with each other! The church at Corinth was fast becoming just another “institution of man.” With it came all the ego, demands, and political maneuvering that is symptomatic of man-made organizations.

Paul steps in and reminds them that the church is about “preaching the Gospel.” Any church that gets lost in preferences, pride, and personalities is about to lose its mission. Paul said “no one should boast.” As a leader Paul didn’t take pride in the group that followed him! His focus to these factiousness believers was simple; “get your attention on Christ and what He asks you to do … preach the cross.” They were to refocus their attention from their own likes and dislikes to how the Gospel was getting out. How many times does this scene play out in churches today? What “style” is the right style? What “leader” is the right leader? The fact is that the message has never changed; the cross of Jesus makes possible new life! Methods however DO change. There isn’t one “right style.” It isn’t about a particular personality. The church of Jesus must learn how to “preach the Gospel” to every culture, at every time. Paul said it wouldn’t be done by human wisdom, or even miraculous signs (see 1:22) … it will only be accomplished when we both preach and practice the “power of God” which Paul’s describes as the “foolishness of preaching” that change lives. Jesus declared the same thing when He talked about people knowing us as His disciples, because they see us love one another.

How much healthier the church would be today if we were asking questions like, “how can we touch this community with the Gospel?” What do we need to do to seriously help people see the power of God in changed lives? It is too easy to lose focus as a group, or an individual. If our eyes are on the cross it will be way too hard to be cross with one another! If our church exists to reach the community we won’t be lost in ourselves. 1 Cor. 2:2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”