I have probably shared this quote before–a quote drawn from D.A. Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry, but I found myself thinking about these words this morning and asking myself this: How many of these things could I do today? Which of these things could I do today and perhaps unwittingly undermine my church from within. I do not anticipate teaching rank heresy today, but would about gossip? What about living an unholy life? What about bitterness? If all of this is true–if all of these are ways in which we can undermine the church–then it presents us a list of specific things to pray against on our behalf and on behalf of others.
The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it–admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism–all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.