Scripture Text: Philippians 1:27–30

Hang Together or Fall Apart (MP3)

Hang Together or Fall Apart (Sermon Text)

Introduction

What is the single most important aspect for a growing church? Some may say it is love. Indeed we are called to love one another. Others may say it is evangelism. It is true that reaching the lost is the mission of the Church. What about unity? How important is unity to the health and growth of a church? Jesus prayed about it. Paul wrote about it. Many Baptists know about it — or at least the lack of it. Speaking about the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin once said, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” While I do not think we are in danger of literally being hanged, this quote emphasizes the importance of unity. It underscores the importance of sticking together in order to accomplish an important work. What work is more important than that of the Church? How important is it that we, the members of Jesus’ Body, be unified in doing that work? I would say it is very important.

Paul urged the church to live lives that represent the faith we say we have. He wrote, “Let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” Maybe that is a strange saying to you. Are you worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If the question means whether we deserve to receive God’s grace, then the answer is most definitely “No!” None of us are worthy or deserving of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. That is why it is grace — we cannot earn it. But that is not the question. The question is whether once we have received the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, are we living in such a way that represents the faith we say we have? Are we living out our faith in such a way that demonstrates the grace we have received? Put another way, can people see Christ in us, or is He obscured by sin, selfishness, pride, jealousy — in short, disunity?

Paul literally told the Philippians in this passage to live as citizens who are worthy of the good news of Jesus Christ. That is the primary meaning of living worthily for the Gospel. The Church represents the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Our primary allegiance is to God and to His kingdom. We may be citizens in the United States, but if we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are primarily citizens of His Kingdom. We belong to God. We are also ambassadors for Jesus Christ. How well do we represent Christ? If someone were to visit us today, or were to observe how we fellowship with one another, would they see the Kingdom of Christ here? Would they see a group of people so united in love and fellowship that it is literally Heaven on earth? The following are some observations from which Paul described how to live worthily for the Gospel.

United in Community

Have you thanked God for the Church? I recently heard someone thank God for His gift of the church. I am not sure that I have ever considered the Church as a gift, but I suppose it is. God gave us not only His Son but His Son’s Bride, the Church. As human beings, we desire and need community. Unfortunately, many Christians do not recognize this or do not value it. In verse twenty-seven, Paul wrote the following:

Philippians 1:27 27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

Writing from prison, Paul said that whether he saw the Philippians in person or not, he wanted to hear news about their unity. The first way Paul mentioned that we are “worthy of the Gospel” was by standing firm together. Unfortunately, church members oftentimes become less committed to one other. Something happens in the church, the pastor says something, another member does something, or control in the church shifts from one group to another, and people become disinterested. According to a survey, the number one way a member can kill a church is to stay away from it. They say if you want to kill a church then do not come worship on Sunday or any other time the church meets. If you do not like the way things are going, don’t come. But imagine if we were literally a family. One member of the family does something that another does not like, does that person just quit the family? Is that how we treat family? No! If there is something that concerns you or that you think needs to be done, then tell someone. Let’s talk about it. Don’t just quit coming or quit supporting the church. We do not need a building to have a church, but we do need people who love Jesus and are committed to one another.

I attended a conference this weekend where the presenters spoke of the importance of church community and how we are all in it together. There should be no us and them, but only us. Paul spoke of unity in this passage which suggests there was some division within the Philippian church. Do we have a similar problem here? The lunch gathering we had a couple of weeks ago revealed some interesting things. One particular thing was that one group of members sat on one side of the table and another group of members sat on the other side. As one person indicated, we typically sit with those we feel more comfortable with or people we know better. Now, I agree that our seating preference by itself does not suggest that there are problems in the church, but I think it indicates that we are still getting to know one another. Most of us have been together for over two years and yet we are still not quiet comfortable with one another.

We live in a magnificent time. We have more opportunities to be connected with one another (phone, text messaging, FaceBook, Skype), yet, we are less together. If a brother or sister in your family called you at 3:00am in the morning saying they have gotten in a terrible car accident and things do not look good, you would get up and go to your family member. If someone in your church family called, what would you do? You might say, “I’ll pray for you.” If we are now adopted into the greatest family in the universe, the Body of Christ, then should we not care just as much if not more for our church family? Folks, these are the people you will spend all eternity. You have a bond with them that is thicker than human relationships. We are united by the blood of Jesus Christ. Look to the person next to you and say, “How are you? How was your week? Is there anything I can do for you?” Was that hard to do? Now, do the same thing this week with others in the church who you do not know as well.

And before someone points this out, I absolutely need to be doing this and modeling this for you, and quite frankly, I do not do it as well as I should. The fact is, though, I need your help and your church family needs your help to do this. God has given to the church various members. Each one of you is important. Each one of you can care for another. In fact, the privilege (not the duty) of caring for each other in the church is not for the pastor or the deacons, but for the entire church family. Some of you do a great job taking care of your own family, but what about your church family? How well are you taking care of them? You can call someone else during the week. You could visit someone or have lunch or coffee with someone this week. It is not hard. It does not matter who you are, or what you have done for the church, you are all important to the church and you are all needed. Let us build a community with intentional relationships.

United in Work

Another thing I heard at the conference this weekend was, “Do not use your peace to indulge in sin.” What this means is that we should not use our peace in Christ to remain silent or to be slothful. We should work together with each other to loudly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul was concerned for the Philippians and wanted them to work together for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Look again at verse twenty-seven:

Philippians 1:27 27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

Working side-by-side is like a sports teams working together to win the game or to win a prize. The team must work together to achieve that goal. If each member on the team is working for himself or playing the game by himself, then the team is going to lose. During the American Revolution, the colonies stood together and worked together for one purpose — independence. If the colonies had wavered, if they had fought amongst themselves, or were divided in their purpose, the American Revolution would have turned out very different. We might all be British today. But they worked together and they fought together. They were united in purpose and won their independence.

The Church is the same way. We are a team with a mission. We are here to represent the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ taking the Good News to the world. If we are divided in this mission, we will fail. If we do not work together, we will fail. We must be united and working together for the same goal. And so, you may ask, “What can I do to help the church in this mission?” Let me ask: How many people have you invited to church this week? Most people come to church because someone invited them. Look at the following statistics:

  • “Eighty-two percent (82%) of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.”
  • “Only two percent (2%) of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eighty (98%) percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.”

The message is clear: more people would attend church if someone invited them. If you wish more people to gather with the church, then go out and invite someone to come. Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you. Most people will come if you just invite them. Don’t let the style of music or the preaching stop you. People should come to connect with Jesus and fellowship with His people, not to be entertained or get to know the pastor. Don’t let geography stop you either. Don’t say the church is too far for people to travel. If you are coming here to church, then surely others will come with you, or because you invited them to come. Let’s work together to accomplish this task.

United in Opposition

The last point I want to make is about opposition. In verse twenty-eight, Paul encouraged the church to not be afraid of their opponents. The opposition to the Church is great. We fight an enemy greater than what the American Rebels faced. The early church faced incredible odds. Christians were beaten. Some were imprisoned. Others were killed. And yet, the Church thrived through that opposition. God took a group of ordinary people and turned the world upside down, in spite of many obstacles. The Church today faces opposition. Christians are persecuted, imprisoned or murdered. The opposition is great. Specifically, this church faces incredible odds. Satan would like nothing more than to see us close the doors to this church. Many would like nothing more than to see this church fail. Are we going to give them the satisfaction of doing that, or will we come together as a community of Jesus Christ, unmoved by that opposition? Folks, we must hang together or we will most certainly fall apart.

Conclusion

So, are we representing our Lord Jesus Christ well? Are we living worthily of the Gospel and as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven? I would like to offer some suggestions, for bringing us closer together as the people God intends for us to be.

One, realize that we are in this together. God has brought the local church together to represent Him on this earth. How well we do that depends largely on how united we are as a community. Jesus said the world would know that we are His disciples by the love we have for each other. (John 13:34-35) How well are you loving one another? Is it just a word you use or do you really, truly care for each other? Are you consumed by your own desires that you have no time to care for other members? We are in this together.

Secondly, stay in touch with each other. Call each other this week and every week. Stay connected with one another, and not just those you are comfortable with. It is easy to call or visit those you know well. Reach out to someone you do not know as well. If you complain that someone else does not talk to you, then try calling them. Try reaching out to them. Be intentional about these important relationships. If God has brought us together, then it was not to just worship on Sunday mornings. It is to be a community. Get together outside of this building. Consider inviting others in the church for dinner.

Thirdly, do not give up on your church family. Do not stay away from your church family. We do not need a building to have a church, but we do need people who love Jesus and each other. Without a specific community of people, we do not have a church. If something is not right, then work to make it better. If there is a problem or something you think should be done differently, then let’s talk about it. Staying away or staying mad about something is not going to fix anything, and it is not going to make you feel better about it. If you do not see something good, then make something good happen today.

Lastly, work with each other for a common goal. We exist to bring glory to God and to tell the world about Jesus. We do not exist to be comfortable or to rest in our salvation. It is a sin to receive God’s grace and then do nothing while others around you are perishing in despair. The church will not grow or sustain itself without reaching more people for Christ. It will not grow unless we reach others for Christ and it takes the whole church to do that. Let us work together for that common purpose. Share the hope you have with someone else. Invite someone this week to join you in church.

Let’s be a community. Let’s be the Church. Let’s represent our Lord and Savior well by standing firm and united as one community. Let us care for one another and work together with one another for the Gospel because we are in this together. Amen!


This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.

GHBC Banner Profile