As believers in the Great Commission, we must never become content just with winning people to Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to “make disciples,” not just make converts. Discipleship training must follow conversion or chaos will take place.
The church in Corinth is a good case study in how a new church should not run.
The new believers lived in a pagan city with a bad reputation. Throughout the Roman Empire, the stereotype of the typical Corinthian was a drunkard or a harlot. Many new Corinthian Christians came out of this mold. They were not use to self-discipline. They had multiple bad habits to overcome. Like young children, Corinthian Christians were divisive, loud, self-indulgent, disorderly, rude, selfish, manipulative and argumentative. They revealed a “me-first” attitude. They exhibited many impressive spiritual gifts, but they didn’t know how to use them wisely—like a ten-year-old boy behind the wheel of a car.
Paul indicates the Corinthian believers were truly Christ-followers, but they lacked maturity. Like a good father, Paul wrote to remind them that God is a God of order, not confusion. To remind them of their childish ways, Paul said, “Shall I come to you with a rod?”
The problem-filled Corinthian church was like many of our own churches today, and the new churches we plant in places where the gospel has never gone before. Whatever age or culture, many churches are often filled with disorder, threatening their ministries. In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul presents three metaphors to serve as models for a dynamic and orderly church:
- The runner. Believers must train themselves like runners-in-training. Runners organize their diets, sleep, exercise and habits to prepare their bodies and minds for the coming race. The race becomes their chief priority, and all other things become secondary. Good pastors and elders serve as coaches to prepare their congregations for the coming race of life. Earthly races reward winners with perishable rewards. The final goal of the Christian’s race is resurrection and eternal life with an eternal God. This requires putting aside old habits of thought and action that distract us from effective preparation.
- The body of Christ. Just as the body has many parts that work together in unity, so the church is made up of many people with many gifts who must learn to work together in unity. Each person has a different but critical role to play. The Head of the Church is Jesus Christ. As we listen to our Head and respect each other’s role, we will accomplish much together for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom in the world around us.
- The virgin bride. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul likens the church to a virgin bride awaiting her husband (Jesus Christ), untainted by impure doctrines by false teachers. Pure doctrine is essential for a truly dynamic church that bears much fruit.
Whether we live in the West or India, we all face the challenge of immaturity and disorder in our churches. We have much to learn from the Corinthians. Thank God for His patience with us! Let us reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Him, and learn to run the race together in unity and purity of doctrine, and the whole world will look on in wonder at His grace.