The following series of articles comes from David Cloud and gives us some helpful insight into how to really make the most of being a member of a church. I am so grateful for the church that Jesus Christ loved and gave Himself for, and I want to have a right relationship with the church, which is his body, his bride. I would not agree with every point he makes, but I think there is alot of good truth in what he writes. Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 as well.
4. WE MUST EXERCISE KEEN SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT, DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN THE IMPORTANT AND THE LESS IMPORTANT
Another key to fruitful church membership is keen spiritual discernment. Notice the following Scriptures:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23).
“And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14).
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14).
In Matthew 23:23, the Lord Jesus Christ taught that not all things in the Bible are of equal importance. Some biblical teachings are “weightier” than some others. Everything in the Bible has some importance, but everything is not of equal importance. Knowing the difference between the two requires a thorough knowledge of God’s Word and keen spiritual discernment. This is the lesson of Romans 15:14; 2 Timothy 2:15; and Hebrews 5:12-14. Such discernment comes only through long and diligent study and through exercise of the senses to discern good and evil. Paul told the church at Rome that the reason they were able to admonish one another was because they were full of goodness and filled with knowledge (Rom. 15:14).
It is my conviction that the friends who wrote to me that they were separating from that independent Baptist church lacked the maturity to distinguish between the “weighty” matters of biblical truth and those matters that are less significant. Although they lacked such maturity, they felt they had better discernment than even their godly pastor. This happens frequently. In fact, it is a characteristic of young Christians. Someone has wisely stated that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. This is one reason why God forbids a novice to be a church leader (1 Tim. 3:6). The young Christian begins to gain some knowledge of the Bible and the ministry, and suddenly he “knows it all” and tries to straighten out everybody else, blithely ignorant of his own serious shortcomings. This happens frequently to young Christians who are in Bible College. They have some knowledge, but often they don’t have the experience and maturity to use it correctly. If they are not careful with their newly found knowledge and zeal, they can cause more problems than they solve!
Pastors and churches are to be judged by the Word of God (1 Thess. 5:21), but church members cannot do this until they first gain the necessary biblical knowledge and discernment required for such judgment. Young Christians need to be extremely cautious and patient about exercising judgment against the pastor. Unless the matter in question is something that is exceedingly plain from the Bible and unless there are mature Christians who can confirm the judgment, it is wise for the immature Christian to the pastor’s greater knowledge and maturity.
One of my evangelist friends differentiates between the “weightier matters” of God’s Word and the less weighty by calling them “fatal” and “non-fatal” teachings. That is a good distinction. It does not mean that the “non-fatal” teachings of God’s Word are of no importance; it simply means they are less important than some other matters.
Some of the “weightier matters” of God’s Word in relation to churches are things such as sound doctrine, the gospel, Christian love, godliness, separation from error, and soul-winning and missions. Some of the less weighty matters are things like the music program (within reason), Sunday School materials, promotions, youth activities (again, within reason), special speakers, and political involvement. Good examples of less weighty matters are the list of eight things mentioned at the beginning of this article: whether or not the church has fellowships at Christmas or jokes being told from the pulpit, etc.
I am not saying that the child of God should ignore Christian rock music or false teaching or unqualified leadership or anything like that. I am not saying we are to be blind to things that are wrong. I am simply saying that not all matters are of equal importance, and we must learn to weigh various issues of church life in order to exercise mature judgment.
We see this in Christ’s judgment of the churches in Revelation 2-3. The problems He rebuked were of a truly serious nature. He did not rebuke a church because of joking in the pulpit; He did not rebuke a church for having a church social on Valentine’s Day or for using recorded music during the specials. I’m not trying to be facetious. I’m not trying to make light of the less important things, but the fact remains that Christ did not treat all church problems with the same degree of seriousness, and we must follow His example. This is exactly what we see in the church epistles. The problems rebuked by the Apostles under inspiration of the Holy Spirit were of a very serious nature. The Church at Corinth was not rebuked for allowing a divorced man to work in the evangelistic ministry, but for drunkenness and immorality and carnal divisions.