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THE SILENT WAR IN THE CHURCH

A Winnable War We Must Not Ignore.

by Larry Cory

 

THE SILENT WAR INSIDE OUR CHURCHES
(Whose church is it?)

     What does it look like when the church is on track and is experiencing what God wants to take place in the church at large and in local churches?  One place it is described is in Paul's testimony in II Corinthians 4:7-12:  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body." 
     God's goal for the church is for us to experience both death and life.  He wants us to see that the old selfish and prideful life that led to wars with each other died with Jesus when he died on the cross.  That old self was replaced by the new self when we put our faith in Jesus.  The new self is the selfless and Spirit-empowered life of Christ in every believer.  Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead so that this might take place.  How can we experience what God's grace has made possible?  We need to want that old self with all of its selfish ways to come to an end.  We now need to want to live in the new self by seeking to be ruled and empowered by Christ.
     We also see in these verses, that God even uses trials of all kinds to accomplish His goal for the church.  God's goal for us is transformation.  He wants the self life to be replaced in His church by Christ's resurrection life.  The church is truly the Body of Christ when Christ's resurrection life fills and empowers the lives of the people of the church.  That should be the simple overall goal for each local church—that it would be a church full of people whose lives are being transformed into Christ's life by God's Spirit.  Just about the whole New Testament was written to help us to accomplish this goal.

A silent war within churches described in one sentence:

     What is described below and for a large portion of the rest of this chapter is what takes place when we in the church do not make loving relationships with God and others our primary goal.  It is not beautiful; in fact it is ugly.  But, sadly, it is what is happening in way too many churches and in way too many Christian relationships. 
     Years ago, I was forced to resign from the church I had pastored for four years.  The main accusation against me was that I had accused a lady in the church of marital infidelity.  She was the wife of a church elder.  The rumors about her having an affair with another man had led to a couple leaving the church.  I was a pastor for the first time.  I had heard the rumors myself, but I had no idea how I should handle it.  I decided to go to the couple myself.  I can't say that I was completely calm and assured about my choice.  I also do not know if that was the best choice.  If I had went to others to discuss how to handle it, though, I may have been accused of passing on the rumor.  So, I did go to the couple and I, as gently as possible, reported what was being said.  They responded kindly to what I shared with them, but later the husband and wife were able to rally the church against me and force me to resign.  It obviously was a very painful time for me.  It later became apparent that the rumor was accurate when the wife in that couple moved in with the other man. Sometime later, the husband apologized to me.  But, I believe what I will describe throughout this chapter was more behind what took place than the issue that I have just described.  And, it has happened to many others (many times even in our own local community).
     As a result of losing my job, our family traveled to another city.  We stayed there with close friends, as I went to look for a job in their home city.  Like many who have chosen to go into the ministry I did not have any marketable skills, so it was difficult for me to find a job.  At that time, we attended the church where our friends attended.  One day, I visited the pastor of that church and shared with him the pain I was experiencing, in hope that he could help me to sort it all out.  He said something I will never forget.  Here is what he said: "There are people in this church that think this is their church, but we know its my church."  He described a war that was not only going on in that church, but a war that is going on in many churches.  He described a silent war in our churches.  What is this silent war?  It is a war over whose church it is.  Jesus died on a wooden instrument of torture to make it possible for there to be a church. Then, God's Spirit came to indwell us, when we put our faith in Jesus, to enable us to act like the church should act.  How, then, can we think that a church belongs to us?

The silent war and the solution to the silent war summarized:

     Most every Christian has his or her ideal for what a church should be like.  This presence of people with varied ideals for a church, though, can lead to a silent war developing in a church.  For a group that is made up of those with a similar vision can begin to take shape.  They, then, can become so united in their pursuit of their goal for the church that they can decide to take over the church so that their vision will take place.  Is this good or bad?  It can be good or bad, depending how they go about it.
     It will be bad if they pursue their goal by somehow forcing it on others.  Then, their goal will be pursued using worldly and fleshly tactics such as bullying, gossip, slander, power-plays, rage, back-room politics, and the absence of or the withholding of love to accomplish their goal.  James describes the results when this type of thing is taking place.  "Selfish ambition" leads to "disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:14,16)  This way of pursuing one's goals in a church is like a husband forcing his wife to comply with his desires using some type of force or intimidation.   
     It could be good, though, if they are united in seeking God's goal for the church—it is good if their goals are being discovered through a growing and Spirit-enabled understanding of God's goals as they are explained in the Bible (see Eph. 3:14-4:16).  Secondly, it can be good if what is being done is being done by seeking to encourage a voluntary and loving agreement of the leadership and the Christians in the church (see II Tim. 2:24-26).  Thirdly, it is good if the motives are pure.  Paul describes what pure motives look like in Philippians 2:3: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."  In other words, it is good if there is a willingness to sacrifice and suffer for the sake of others.  Furthermore, it is good if we are not arrogantly seeing others' faults more clearly than we see our own faults.  Fourthly, it is good if the group of people who are pursuing after God's goals for the church are using methods that are Spirit-led such as prayer, submission to leadership, submission to each other, gentleness, genuine love, serving each other, teaching God's truth, exhortation, discipleship, and patience to accomplish God's goals.  It is really good if the whole church becomes unified in voluntarily and wholeheartedly seeking together after God's goals for the church in God's ways.  Certainly, there are churches where this is taking place. 
     The problem is that much of what happens in churches can be somewhere in between these two extremes; and, so, it is often hard to easily detect what is taking place.  And, so, the silent war is present to one degree or another in many churches.

A description of the motivations behind this silent war:

     After being in a number of leadership positions in churches over the years, it has been my observation that this war is sadly present in many or even most churches.  It is present in our churches because it is present in us individually more than we realize.  It is not the type of war that has been openly declared.  It is a war being waged mostly in secret.  What is the war being fought over?  It is a war that is being fought among Christians over whose church it is.  Sadly, key people in Christian churches can be silently fighting with each other over whose church it is, rather than uniting together in the war against our common enemy. 
     The young pastor may not even realize that he is in this war.  He may be new to this whole pastor thing; and, as a result, he is learning as he goes.  Also, he may think that the war he is in is entirely a spiritual battle with the forces of darkness that are outside of the church.  He is probably not aware that he and others in the church, to one degree or another, can all be seeing the church as their church.
     Because the pastor has been chosen by the church to be its leader, the pastor can easily come to believe that its his church—it can be seen by him as his baby.  So, he becomes dedicated toward leading his church toward his glorious goal for it.  Churches, after all, are often called the pastor's church.  Very successful churches are often referred to as ________'s church.  Does that not settle the issue?  It is the pastor's church.  I suspect that only the humblest of pastors does not feel this way. I must confess that I was not one of the humble ones starting out and I still struggle today not to be possessive, competitive, and territorial.
     If it is the pastor's church, then it is the congregation's job and the job of support staff to make him successful.  He can look at them as helping him toward this goal or hindering him from achieving his dream for his church.  A pastor, after I had been his assistant pastor for a few years, told me that my job was to make him successful.  In our cities, where there are many churches competing with each other, some compete successfully and become the large churches in that community, and some remain small churches and are seen as unsuccessful churches.  And, of course, the pastors of the large churches can be seen as successful pastors and the pastors of small churches can be seen as unsuccessful pastors.  When it is the pastor's church, his success can become a preeminent goal of that church—and even the preeminent goal of that church—without most of the people in that church even realizing it.  Maybe, without the pastor realizing it.
     Certainly, though, there are also many in churches who believe that it is not the pastor's church, but it is our church.  We can believe that the church does not belong to the pastor; for, after all, he is our employee (he belongs to us).  Those of us who feel that it is our personal church can feel that way for a number of reasons.  Here are some of them:  1) We have been members in the church for longer than anyone else.  We may have even been among those who started the church.  2) We have headed or were part of the committee that selected the pastor, and feel he is still accountable to us.  3) We can believe that our doctrinal positions are superior to others in the church.  So it is our job to make sure that the pastor teaches and adheres only to our doctrinal position or positions.  4) We may feel that we are serving the church more than anyone else.  We may feel then, because of our perceived greater service to the church than others, that we have somehow earned a greater say in what happens in the church.  5) We have formed a power bloc in the church and have gained the numbers to get what we want.  6) We have become, as it appears, indispensable to the church's functioning.  If we leave the church or stop doing our work, the church will not be able to make it.  7) We may be friends with the pastor and have a great amount of influence over him.  8) We may feel that we give more to the church than anyone else and then feel that it is, therefore, our church.  9) Or, we may believe that we would be better at leading the church than the pastor and the church will be more successful if we are in charge.  There are these reasons and more why we in the church can feel it is our church.  Most of us have at least been tempted at times to feel one of more of these ways.  Sometimes, also, we can be in conflict with each other over whose church it is.  For example, some of us who have the numbers with us can be in conflict with some who have been in the church the longest.  So, we have the pastor who has his dream for the church and some of us members who, for a number of reasons, all believe it is our church.  This is a silent war that is going on inside of many or even most churches.
     How can we tell if we see the church as our church?  Obviously, it is difficult or impossible to know, with complete accuracy, our motives or the motives of others.  But, our outward actions do reveal, with some degree of accuracy, what is on the inside of us.  Jesus, for example, told us that false teachers can be recognized by their fruit (see Matt. 7:15-20).  It is obvious that the Pharisees and the other religious leaders of Jesus' time believed that Israel and its religious system belonged to them rather than to God.  How can we know this was true?  When the Son of God came, they became very possessive of what they believed was theirs.  When His teachings and practices diverged from their teachings, they became incensed and indignant.  Their motives were revealed by their actions. 
     What are some outward signs that probably indicate that we see the local church that we lead or attend as our church?  Many of us who attend a church also have a house that we consider to be our house.  What are some signs that reveal that we see it as our house and not someone else's house?  Here are some of those signs.  In our house, we make the rules as to what is permitted and what is not permitted.  For example, we make decisions about whether or not shoes are permitted to be worn in the house.  People do not come into our house and go through the drawers in our house.  If people do not abide by our rules in our house, we do what is necessary to make them abide by our rules or we indicate in some way or another that they are not welcome in our house.  Most treat other people's houses in an appropriate way, so this severe step is rarely necessary. 
     It is easy to see the parallel between seeing our house as ours and seeing the church as our church.  If we see the church as our church, we make the rules.  God gave Israel His Law.  The religious leaders, though, turned God's Law into their man-made rules.  J. C. Ryle said, men fight harder for their rules than for God's laws.  "Whenever a man takes upon him to make additions to the Scriptures, he is likely to end with valuing his additions above Scripture itself."  "Have you never read how some have exalted canon, rubrics, and ecclesiastical laws above the word of God, and punished disobedience to them with far greater severity than open sins?" (Expository Thoughts of the Gospels on Matthew 15 by J. C. Ryle.)
     The Jewish leaders attacked Jesus for not obeying their rules for the Sabbath; even though it was His Sabbath and not theirs.  They even changed the Law when it suited them.  After all, it was their religious system, designed to fulfill their goals and their purposes.
     Also, in our homes, we make the final decisions on such matters as what color the house will be or on whether or not it is carpeted.  Again, the parallel between our attitude about our house and our attitude about our church is revealed by our actions.  If we believe it is our church, we believe that we have the right to make the final decisions about important matters in the church.  Again, a silent war in the church is over whose church it is.
     The best reason, though, for there being an absence of the silent war in a church is because there is genuine love and growth taking place in the church.  When we in the church are growing spiritually by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, there will be a growth away from selfishly seeing the church or ministries within the church as being our church or as being our territory.  Rather, there will be an appreciation of each other's ministry.

What it looks like when the Silent War is not present:

     Recently, we started a community group in a large housing area.  There was also another community group taking place there, led by a couple from another church.  This couple had been reaching out in Christian love to many in this housing group.  It was refreshing for me to learn that they did not see us as a threat to what they were doing; but, instead, they have seen us as an asset in the large task that God has led us both into.  Through the years, I have been encouraged by a number of ministries that exhibit this type of selflessness.  Recently, a number of churches in our area are, together, providing cold weather shelter to the homeless in our city.  In the past I led an outreach to those struggling with various types of addictions.  It was encouraging to me when I heard a pastor of another church give support to what we were doing.  When our motives are purified, we will thank God and be thankful for each person who is serving Christ.  We are not to fight with each other for territory, but we are to work together to gain territory for theLord Jesus Christ.

Collateral damage from the silent war:

     No two churches are the same, and so this silent war can work itself out in many ways.  Over the years—going through my new Christian years, seminary years, an internship, and ministry years—I have been in nine churches.  A couple of them were nationally known super churches.  Some have been large and some have been small.  In almost every one, I have seen the dynamics I have described here taking place.  Plus, I have heard many stories of this type of thing happening in churches where my friends have attended. 
     Churches where there is a fight over whose church it is, can be very destructive and can tear down the very people the church is supposed to be building up.  I have witnessed personally many casualties of the silent war (sometimes too personally).  For example, many who have sacrificed all to go into the ministry have ended up being beaten up in the battle over whose church it is—they have been beaten up in the fellowship where they should have been loved.  Many pastors have been forced out of their pastoral positions.  Some, never return to the ministry.  Others spend the rest of their lives wondering what was so wrong with them that even a church ended up hating them.  Some church members relish it when they have successfully ousted a pastor.  "We won the war!"  "It's our church, not your church!"  They can be totally cold to how hurtful this can be, and how contrary to real Christianity this is.  They won, but the cause of Christ lost.
     Also, a church fight over whose church it is often ends up in a divided church.  It can be divided in the same building or divided in two or more buildings.  That is the very opposite of Jesus' will for the church.
     There are many other sad results that occur because of the silent war over whose church it is.  First of all, there are many who witness this un-Christ-like behavior who are deeply grieved by what they see.  They may have been helped by the pastor and/or have developed a deep friendship with an ousted pastor.  They see the pastor they love being treated in an unloving way. They may see Christians divided into factions and speaking in a hostile way to each other or about each other.  They see a church that professes God's love to instead be practicing hate.  There are many who have stopped attending church anywhere in their dismay over what they have seen happen.  To them, the church is the opposite of the church described in the New Testament.
     Finally, another sad consequence is that this silent war is exactly how the world portrays us.  It fits their stereotype of the church—always embroiled in church politics.  Many do not attend churches because they hear of these church battles and reject the church as a whole.  They hear of this silent war going on in the church, and go, "They are just what I thought they were."
     Granted, there are legitimate reasons for divisions in a church.  This will be discussed in later chapters.  There are also legitimate reasons for pastors to be removed from their jobs. The requirements for, expectations of, and the demands on a pastor are very high.  It is a high calling to be a pastor.  But in most jobs, if you work hard, and put in many extra hours, and do your best to get along with everyone, you will remain in that job as long as you want to stay.  But, in most jobs you are not in a battle over whose business it is.
     Well, I said it would not be pretty.  In fact, it is very ugly.  But, we are all very selfish apart from Jesus' life ruling in us.  The silent war is simply us acting like the selfish people we are apart from God's Spirit expressing Himself through us.  We should not be surprised at the divisions and problems in churches, for selfishness and division are the norm in our society.  It is just that the church, because of what God's grace has done for us and in us, can and should be different.  But the church will be like what has been described above unless we are transformed from self-life to Christ's life by God's Spirit.  We will all be part of the silent war unless we are willing to humble ourselves and admit our selfishness.  We will all be part of this silent war unless we humbly seek Christ's transforming power—we can't do it right without Christ doing it through us.  So, let us look at what needs to change.

What will bring PEACE to the church?  When we recognize it is not our church, but Jesus' church.

     So, what is the solution?  The solution is very simple: it is not the pastor's church, nor does it belong to anyone else in the church—whether he or she gives the most, has attended there longer than anyone else, etc.  There is only One who owns the church—the One who died for it.  If a whole church agrees that the church does not belong to any of us, but it only belongs to the One whose blood paid for it, this part of the silent war will come to an end.  This is so simple and basic, it is amazing that we do not all recognize it.  Believing that the church belongs to Jesus is the way that we must look at the church.  It is His Body within which He dwells through the presence of the Holy Spirit and it is His group of people through whom He has chosen to express His life.  That is the way that we must look at the church for God's goals for the church to be realized.  It is only Jesus' life in us that can produce the type of love and service that is needed for the church to be what God designed it to be.  His life must replace our self-life. 
     How, then, does this work out in practice?  First of all, we need to do more than just give lip service to it.  It is not what we say that is important, it is what we choose to make the primary focus of our lives.  It is possible to teach the right doctrine without really believing it is vital to a church's functioning or to our lives.  Our goal as a church should be the following: each of us who are Christians should seek to realize our potential in Christ.  We should each seek to be transformed from being the selfish person we once were into being the Christ-like person that Christ has made us.  Our goal is that Christ's church be an expression of His life in all of us.  That should be the primary goal of our churches and our lives as Christians.  I find no other goal for the church in the Bible.  If we love God and others; we will read the Bible, pray, encourage and support each other, and seek to reach the lost with the gospel message.

What does it look like when we treat the church as Jesus' church?

     We tend to treat something that is not our own differently than that which is our own.  Or, at least, we should treat it differently.  We treat our neighbor's house differently than we treat our house.  We treat our neighbor's car differently than we treat our car.  Shouldn't we, then, treat Christ's church differently than we would treat it if we thought it was our church?  Certainly, we should treat that which belongs to God differently from that which we believe belongs to us.  A long time ago an older member of a church in which I had a leadership role told me that he resented the new young people coming into their church and rearranging the furniture in their living room (their church was seen as being like their living room).  In other words, these new people were making changes in their church.  If the changes were more effectively accomplishing what Jesus wanted done in His church, then the rearranging of the furniture in His church was appropriate.  But, this very nice man did not see it as the Lord's church, he saw it as the older people's church.  "Whose church it is" is critical in how we see the church that we attend.
     Since, it is God's church, we need to seek with all our hearts to discover what He wants to happen in His church.  I believe it is very clearly taught in Ephesians 3:14-4:16.  In these verses, we see that Jesus is not interested in building super churches for our glory, but in building loving fellowships as Christ rules in our hearts.  And in these verses, Jesus is not interested in growing church attendance, but in growing Christians to maturity in Christ.  Often, a church that is alive with God's love and holy character will grow in other ways as well.
     We should make all of our decisions in Christ's local churches, seeking our Lord's will.  And the best way to find it is to seek His will in His book.  God has written down His will for the church in His book.  He has already revealed to us in the Bible, in a very thorough way, what He wants us to do.  Too often the Bible becomes little more than a devotional—a book of little importance in running a church.  And, the focus can be on building a successful church by increasing attendance, finances, and buildings rather than on discovering Jesus' will for His church.
     Also, we in the church may not willing to make the type of effort that is necessary to understand what the Bible teaches about the church and to apply it to our lives.  If we dedicate ourselves to understanding what the Bible teaches about the church, we will discover that the Bible is God's absolute road map, written by Him, to guide us toward what He wants to happen in His church.  When we do not see the church as Christ's church but as our church, we tend to replace God's word as our authority with our rules for our church.  That has been taking place throughout church history.  But it is His church, and we should seek diligently and wholeheartedly after what He wants for His church.
     Then, we should make all decisions in the church seeking God's wisdom.  James, the brother of Jesus gives us guidelines on how to do that throughout his book of James.  It is summed up in James 3:17-18: "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18)  We must purify ourselves of the self  that Jesus told us we are to deny. (see Matt. 16:24)  We must purify ourselves of selfishness.  Then, we must seek after what Jesus wants us to do.  And He loves to give us His wisdom. (see James 1:5)
     Next, we must be careful as we seek God's wisdom that we are filled with God's Spirit.  That is how the early church made its decisions: "In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:1-3)  We should seek to be led by God's pure and wise Spirit, not by our impure and selfish spirit.
     And, what should be most obvious to us, we are to be loving, merciful, and gracious to each other; as God has been loving, merciful, and gracious to us.  "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)  And, we can only do this as God energizes us so that we can love, forgive, and serve as Jesus has loved, forgiven, and served us.
     Instead of leaving those who have been called into the ministry strewn, beaten, and bruised from our treatment of them, we should, like the Good Samaritan, be strengthening and encouraging them in the strength of Jesus Christ.  People should look at the church and be amazed at how much we love each other.  And, again, the only way we can love and serve each other is when we are strengthened and transformed by the Holy Spirit into being able to love others with Christ-like love.
     Most churches and pastors would agree that what I am saying is the solution to the silent war in the churches, but few churches have a united vision to make it clear that it is not our church, but Christ's church.  This, I believe, is the core problem and the core solution.  We need to have a united vision that we are together seeking to accomplish Jesus' will for His church!  We need to do all that we can, in Christ's strength, to eliminate this silent war from our churches.  We simply need to, always with a humbled spirit, recognize that it is not my church, our church, or the pastor's church; but it is always Christ's church!

But, where does it say that we are Christ's church?

      Does the Bible specifically say that the church belongs to Jesus?  It not only says that, but it also says that we each individually belong to Jesus.  This is a radical concept.  It is not only a radical concept, but it is also the only way that the church can become what God desires it to be.  And we must choose voluntarily and out of love for Jesus to give ourselves over to being fully His people so that God's purpose for His church will be fully realized. (see Romans 12:1-2)
     First of all, the church is Christ's church, for it is described as the body of Christ.  "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (I Corinthians 12:27)  "And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body [not ours], the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:22-23)  " . . . We are Christ's body, not ______'s body (fill in our names).
     When mankind fell through Adam's and Eve's sin, we took over lordship of our lives.  When we became part of Jesus' body through faith in Jesus Christ, we put ourselves under His lordship.  That Is God's ultimate purpose.  " . . . to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (Ephesians 1:10)  We are, now, to voluntarily seek to obey Him in everything; and we are to cease pursuing our personal goals and begin to live our lives fully seeking to accomplish His goals.   
Also, when we came to Christ, we each gave up ownership of ourselves:

     We know that these verses are found in the Bible, but do we base our lives on them?  We are not to live for ourselves.  We are not to see Christ's church as a means for us to gain personal glory, wealth, or power; although it is so human for us to do this.  Christ's church, instead, is to be the primary means by which men and women can see what God is like.  It is to be the primary vehicle by which people are transformed into being like Him.  There is a great deal of difference between mouthing these words and actually being united in seeking together to live this way.
      The first church I attended, Peninsula Bible church in Palo Alto, California, presented a united vision that we were the Lord's church.  They also emphasized the New Covenant Christian life—a dependence on God to produce God's type of life in us. The leadership was obviously united in this vision.  This united vision was seen in the emphasis that was made by the leaders of the services who introduced the church services to us each Sunday, it was written in the stacks of sermons that anyone could pick up in the entryway, it was repeated in the sermons that were given by various staff members and church interns, it was shared by Sunday school teachers, and it was repeated by my Christian friends from that church.  It affected me during those days.  In short, it was that the church is about Jesus Christ—what He did for us on the cross and what He can do in us and through us if we believe in His resurrection power.  Ray Stedman said that resurrection power works best in a graveyard—it works best when we are experiencing Christ's death to our old life.
      I did not know everyone in that church, but the Christians I did know were also impacted by the leadership's united vision.  I know that this church has profoundly impacted many lives.  Any church that is united in doing all that they can to deny self and to seek Christ's rule in His church empowered by the Holy Spirit, will also impact the world.  "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him . . ."
(II Chronicles 16:9).  Certainly, Jesus will use a church that is made up of people who "are fully committed to him."

How we can we personally seek to not be a cause of the silent war?

     What if you or I are one of those who, to one degree or another, believe that the church is ours and, therefore, we are a contributor and a cause of this silent war in the church?  What can we do?  What we need to do is very difficult for us.  For, it requires that we humble ourselves and admit that we have been motivated by selfishness and not by God's Spirit.  It really, though, is the essence of the Christian life—seeking to purify ourselves of selfishness and the self-dependent life so that Christ's life can fill our lives.  It is what each of us are to seek to do above all else.
      First of all, we need to admit that what the Bible says is true of us—that we are motivated by selfish ambition and not by God's Spirit.  Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn." (Matt. 5:4)  True happiness comes from admitting it when our motivations are selfish.  Also, we need to recognize that because of our selfish ambition, Satan is empowering us in his battle to gain control of God's church.  Satan wants to destroy the church and the people that Jesus died for.  Nothing pleases him more than to engage Christians in a war with each other.  Is that what you and I want to do with our lives?  Do we want to be used by Satan to destroy Jesus' church and to destroy Jesus' people?  Or, are we willing to do whatever Jesus wants us to do to stop being part of this silent war?  James, the brother of Jesus, in the verses that were mentioned before are key verses in this part of this study, describes what selfish ambition leads to: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:14-16)  "Selfish ambition" in our hearts leads to us being used "of the devil."  Another translation says it is demonic. 
      What is the solution?  We are not to be arrogant and "deny the truth."  We are to humbly admit, from the heart, that our "selfish ambition" is not coming from God, but from the evil one.  James 4 describes what this admission of our sin is to look like for us:  "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:7-10)  Then and only then, will we no longer be part of Satan's silent war on God's church.  James describes what we will be like when our hearts are purified.  "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18)
      When the silent war is taking place, the best way  for this silent war to be eliminated is for leaders and church members to function like a good marriage—where there is humility and genuine love for each other.  When this happens, there will be humility as sin is confessed and forgiven.  When this happens, issues are resolved in a humble, loving, and wise way.  Then, God fills His church and God is depended on as the church functions as it should, as the Body of Christ.  This is not something that we can do, but it is something that only God can do in us.
      So, let us bring an end to this ugliness in the church that Christ died for.  Let us seek to be a church that is totally focused on Jesus Christ's goals for His church.  Let us seek to live as the new person in Christ and not in the old fleshly way.  Let us work at becoming so fully united in our shared purpose to fulfill Jesus' goal for His church, that we come to see each other in the church as being on the same team with us.  Let us be unified in seeking one goal—that Jesus be glorified.  Then, there will truly be revival in Christ's church!
      "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'" (Matthew 22:37-40)  These verses not only sum up the Law and the Prophets, but they also sum up God's goal for His church—true love for God and true love for each other.  God wants us to grow in our love relationships with Him and with each other.  True love for God and each other will put an end to this silent war in our churches.
      So, do we want to be united with our fellow Christians in seeking, with God's strength, to gain victories over our common enemy?  Or, do we want to do battle with our fellow Christians for control of our local church?  May we choose to eliminate this silent war in our churches and choose, instead, to be united together in fighting the good fight!

The Silent War In The Church

Table of Contents and Brief Intro Table of Contents
Introduction Introduction
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 1 Part 1a
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 2 Part 1b
The Silent War between Churches Part 2
The Silent War with Satan and his Demons Part 3
The Silent War can be Won by God's Love in us Part 4
The Silent War can be like the Wars in the World Part 5
The Silent War between a False and Coerced Unity and a True Unity Part 6
An Essential Requirement Needed for Ending the Silent War Between Christians Part 7
The Silent War Caused by Turning the Church into the Kingdom of Man and not the Kingdom of God Part 8
The Silent War inside of Each Christian Part 9
The Silent War in the Church with the World Part 10
The Silent War Over Divisive Issues Coming Nov 19
The Silent War caused by a Mysterious Invading Army Coming Nov 26
The Silent War Caused by Seeking Worldly Success Coming Dec 3
The Silent War Always Results in Persecution Coming Dec 10
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Divide Coming Dec 17
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Cause Divisions Coming Dec 24
The Silent War Caused by the Church or a Church Dividing over an Important Issue Coming Dec 31
When the Church is Winning Coming Jan 7
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War - Part 1 Coming Jan 14
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War - Part 2 Coming Jan 21
How Victory in the Silent War can Lead to Revival in the Church Coming Jan 28
Conclusion Coming Feb 4
Addendum: The Silent War caused by "the onlys" Coming Feb 11
Addendum: A Pastor's Authority by Ray Stedman Coming Feb 18
Addendum: Galatians 6:1-3 (my commentary on these verses) Coming Feb 25
Addendum: John Wesley's sermon at George Whitefield's funeral Coming Mar 4