Recap Notes: December 3, 2017
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "The Anatomy of a Healthy Church"
Text: Philippians 4:1-5Path
In the New Testament, the church is often called "the body of Christ." Like a human body, it has many parts and functions. The church at Philippi was growing and with growth comes growing pains. In this section of the letter, Paul addressed some of the pains and applied the right prescription for what was threatening this group. Pastor Skip considered five necessary components of a healthy church:
- A Big Heart (v. 1a)
- A Firm Stance (v. 1b)
- A Warm Embrace (vv. 2-3)
- A Merry Soul (v. 4)
- A Soft Touch (v. 5)
A Big Heart
- The ministry of a church is not about property or pews, but people. If a church withers and dies, it's because the people in it have withered and died.
- In this text, a spat between two women affected the unity of the body. Yet this passage also gives components of a healthy church.
- Paul affirmed his love for the Philippian believers, calling them "my beloved" (v. 1). He provided guidance in how to resolve the disagreement and bring unity.
- The love of Christ is the mark of the church. By loving one another, we make the invisible God visible. If we are a community of nurturing, caring, and loving people—crossing barriers of age, sex, race, and rank—the world will see the love of Christ.
- Notice the other words Paul used to express his love for the church: longed for, my joy, and crown. Paul was saying, "This loving relationship I have with you is my reward."
- Probe: Discuss what first attracted you to church. Was it the music, the message, or the Maker—Jesus? And whatever got you through the door, what was it about Jesus that attracted you the most?
A Firm Stance
- Paul's big heart was balanced by a firm stance; he needed to help heal a division.
- Church isn't just a place to belong and feel affirmed, but a place of deep conviction. With deep conviction comes possible confrontation with other believers.
- Stand fast means persevere, which is akin to a soldier standing in battle. Paul's message was, "Don't waiver; stay on track, steady in God."
- Spiritual instability leads to doubt, discouragement, and disappointment. Unstable people are crushed by trials, overwhelmed by circumstances, and overtaken by temptation. We need a firm stance to follow Jesus no matter what.
- Probe: Share about a time you needed to take a firm stance for the cause of Christ. What was the outcome? How did your stance affect you personally?
A Warm Embrace
- The two women mentioned, Euodia (meaning good journey) and Syntyche (meaning fortunate), were most likely two prominent members of the church, laboring with Paul in the gospel. Sadly, they are best remembered for their dispute.
- Unity among Christians proves the veracity of the Christian message; disunity undermines our witness.
- With such different and diverse perceptions within the church, how can we, like an orchestra, make harmonious music together? We must subordinate our own feelings and biases to the leadership of the conductor, Jesus Christ.
- Embrace nonessential differences; God has places and purposes for us all.
- Probe: Discuss ways in which Christians are to settle disputes (see Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; James 4:7-10). According to Matthew 18, what are four major steps a Christian should follow to settle conflict?
A Merry Soul
- Paul repeated the theme of joy: "Again I will say, rejoice!" (v. 4). Joy is a choice more than a feeling; it's a decision, not a sensation. It's an outlook on life—and we're to seek it always.
- Paul had reason to feel dejected: he had been imprisoned, beaten, and persecuted. He didn't choose defeat but delight—the joy of the Lord.
- Gladness is a better witness than grouchiness. As Ben Franklin said, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
- Probe: Merry is an adjective meaning cheerful and lively. Why should Christians exude merriment and joy? What characteristics exemplify a joyful life? How should the joy we find in Christ be reflected in our relationships with others?
A Soft Touch
PracticeConnect Up: In Ephesians 4:15, Paul encouraged Christians to speak "the truth in love." How does God speak both truth and love through Christ? How does God speak truth and love to the world? Why are both needed in our relationship with the Lord, who offers a soft touch and a warm embrace, but also takes a stand for His truth through His Word?
- A healthy church actively awaits Jesus' return and is gracious as it waits.
- When a conflict arises in the church, God's people need to be gracious, gentle, and diplomatic. A soft touch is needed.
- The word Paul uses for gentleness means sweet reasonableness. It means we should show mercy when we see others' faults and failures.
- No one starts out as a mature, spiritually knowledgeable Christian. Learn to show grace, cutting other Christians some slack.
- When there's a conflict at home, work, or church, it's the soft touch that heals. Paul was saying, "Be famous for your gentleness." Why? Because the Lord is at hand; God's presence is with us.
- Probe: Share about a time someone harshly corrected you. How did it feel? Compare that to a soft touch—a kind correction. What are the major differences between the two approaches and the possible differing outcomes?
Connect In: The early church was not perfect. Like the church today, there were problems. Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 give us a protocol for conflict resolution. What can we learn from these texts about handling conflict within the church?
Connect Out: How can each of Skip's five points act as a guide in evangelism? How can people see the love and truth of Christ through a big heart, firm stance, warm embrace, merry soul, and soft touch?