Henry Ford is quoted as saying, "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." As we apply this good logic within the congregational setting of the Lord's church, what lessons can we learn from Mr. Ford?
There is always a beginning, a coming together. Whether the individual having visited and learned the Gospel and then obeys (2 Thess. 1:7-9) or the brother or sister having moved into the area and begins worshipping with the congregation, there is a beginning. For the new convert, there is a learning curve where foundational teaching and application helps the convert grow by "the sincere milk of the word" (1 Pet. 2:2). Also for the new member who has moved into the area, there is a learning curve. There is a period of time where the congregation is getting to know this new member and vice versa. In both cases, the member is getting to know the eldership, deacons, and preacher.
“…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:7-9, ESV).
There is progress as time goes by that helps promote staying together. This is where each individual has opportunities to grow friendships with a Christian family and grow in faith. Paul reminds us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17, ESV). Unity is founded in faith as each member grows in "knowledge" (2 Pet. 3:18) and in "love" (1 Cor. 13:4-8). Paul also reminds in Ephesians 4, “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3, ESV).
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends" (1 Cor. 13:4-8, ESV).
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:18, ESV).
There is success when brethren are not only in unity, but actually working together. In fact, it is likely difficult to actually have unity when one is working and another is not. Success is seen then in the result of our working together. We work together with an eternal goal of Heaven (Col. 1:4-5). We work together with a common goal of our salvation and the salvation of others (Phil. 2:12; Mt. 28:18-20). We work daily in our praying, studying, helping, edifying, admonishing, preaching/teaching, etc.
“since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:4-5a, ESV).
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (Phil. 2:12-16a, ESV).
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20, ESV).
Paul explained that, early in the church, miraculous gifts were given to benefit the church in its growth. We have the revealed Word of God today and that which has remained… “faith, hope, and love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:12-16, ESV).
From Mr. Ford’s logic, we can see the growth process in the life of a Christian in the local congregation. A beginning and place to start a new life, making progress in life by staying together, and ever striving in life toward that goal as we work together. May we ever strive to grow and work together so that we might have Heaven as our eternal Home.
|Photograph: Getty Images/Library Of Congress|