Each year when we dedicate our church officers, board members, and pastoral staff, we are reminded as a church community that Jesus Christ is the master of this house. He is the Head! And, we are His servants. We are all servants commissioned and commanded to serve Him and to do so together. It is an affront to His Headship, and it is dishonoring to Him personally, when anyone of us chooses to act independently from the rest of the body.
In honoring the privileges and the great responsibilities Jesus has given to each of us as members of His body, we are all to consciously maintain “the oneness of Christ in the bond of peace.” We are given responsibility to keep ‘His Church’ in good and godly order in everything we do, no matter what the task. We are each to keep our minds and hearts and lives pure before God, always being ready, as clean vessels, for any service He appointed to us. We are to do everything we do in His name under the constraint of His love, never under obligation, never carelessly, and never selfishly. All of us are to be constantly reminding ourselves that this is not “our church”, it is “His church.”
Throughout the years on each of dedication Sundays, the members of each current board, officers, and pastoral staff, agreed to keep the trust given you by the congregation. You pledge to not betray the trust given you by the congregation for your own purposes. You pledge to work hard to work together with each other and the congregation in the spirit of gentleness, humility, and the love of God. You commit yourselves to search out ways and means within our church to make us more effective in fulfilling your ministries in the name of Jesus.
On each dedication Sunday the congregation also pledges before God to pray for our church leaders and for themselves, that God will use us as a believing community to bring honor to Him in everything we do and say as a professing body of Jesus. The congregation pledges to support our leaders and to encourage them in any way possible, and to admonish them if needed in the spirit of love, with gentleness and kindness and respect.
It is important that each one of us remembers that we are fellow servants of Jesus Christ, working together for His glory. Working together always requires open communication and mutual accountability. It is always discouraging and defeating to our overall purpose of oneness in the body of Christ, to learn after the fact of important decisions that have been made without mutual consultation. The question that should be asked, without exception, and making our decisions is, “How will this decision affect others?”
The spirit of our charge each year on dedication Sunday is the affirmation of full agreement with the lessons Jesus has taught us in the Scriptures; as illustrated throughout the epistles for the normal life of a believing community in which Christ is The Head.
I believe it is advantageous for our church at this moment of transition in history, to go back and read, and then reread “The Lord’s High Priestly Prayer” in John 17.
Jesus prayed this prayer for His disciples in The Upper Room the night on which he was arrested. This prayer is extremely important because it is His final prayer on our behalf. He knew what His disciples would soon be facing, and he knows what we are now facing, not just during this period of transition, but what we face every day living in this fallen world and in our fallible flesh.
In His intercession that night He is standing in the gap between His disciples and His father; between us and our God! It is Important for us to know what He prayed because we know that His father answered His prayer, and He is still answering that prayer on our behalf every day. As God’s Son, He has received the glory which He had with His father before the world begun. As our Great High Priest He offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. His hour to be glorified and to glorify His father had come! The hour of our salvation was at hand when Jesus would give eternal life to everyone His Father gave to Him.
Jesus prayed to His father that He would “Keep his disciples in His Father’s name.” Jesus had done for them everything that needed to be done in His three years with them. He made the truth of His Father known to them. He faithfully taught them the truths of God’s word, which they gladly received and believed. He made it clear that He was not only praying for those disciples who saw him face-to-face. But He was also praying for those who would believe in Him through their preaching and teaching and personal testimonies.
Jesus prayed that His father would keep them from the evil one, as well as from evil itself in the world we live. He prayed specifically that His father would not take His people out of the world, but that He would keep them from the power of the evil one; guarding them from his evil desires, and his ungodly ways, and his deceptive temptations, as they were being sent out into the world, even as Jesus had been sent into the world to announce the coming of The Kingdom of God, calling men and women to faith in Jesus and repentance for their sins against God.
Jesus prayed “that They May Be One, even AS We Are.” It was with passion Jesus petitioned His father to, “Make those who will believe, one! As we are one: so that the world may believe that you sent me!
Our oneness in Christ is heart and soul of our oneness with each other. Anytime we see the spirit of independence at work in the body of Christ; that is to say, anytime we see anyone doing it “their way”, it is a sure sign that it is not “His Way.” The result of such attitudes and actions will never bring glory to God. They bring only confusion, division, and ill will.
The admonition to Look to Jesus first, will never grow old! Because, Jesus is not only our Great High Priest, He is also the great example for us to follow. He clearly states for us in His prayer that, “I have given them The Glory You Have Given to Me”. That is, the glory of being one with God.
Our oneness in His Body is a high and holy calling! It is a calling in which each one of us called in Christ is to strive for that perfect oneness Jesus had with his father from before the beginning of time. And that is a high and holy calling, “That the world may know that you have sent me, and loved them as you have loved me!”
Among the many purposes Jesus prayed for us is the joy of our Lord! In verse 13, Jesus prayed, “That they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” That is the joy of living in oneness with our heavenly Father and with one another. Verse 24 then speaks of the eternal joy set before us: “The joy of having them with me to behold the glory of your eternal love for me.”
Could there be any greater joys for us as God’s children than to know our heavenly Father by name, personally, and to be filled with His great love, and to be indwelt by Jesus himself in the person of God the Holy Spirit? If these things are true, and they are, then what should we be expecting from our lives and labors individually and corporately as His body worshiping and serving Him as one.
In conclusion, I point out four things that stand out clearly and point to Godly expectations from all those who profess faith in Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord. Number one; living victorious and sanctified lives. Number two, living, working, and serving together in the fellowship of the saints. Number three, loving and longing to be in His presence now, with the ever present hope of being with Him where He is and glory. Number four, being in love with God our father, and His son Jesus, who in ultimate love gave His life for us as a servant, and the Holy Spirit who lovingly comforts and councils us and convicts us of our sins drawing us back again and again to God’s Grace and Mercy for Forgiveness.
May I lovingly, kindly, and gently admonish each member of each board, and each member of each committee, and each member of each ministry, and each person in this local body of believers to share the mutual responsibility, in Christ of being self-accountable in all things to the church as a whole. Communication, coordination, and integration of idea, plans and programs is essential for the ongoing health of West Church.
Respectfully Submitted, Pastor Ralph Wetherington