(taken from Building Christian Unity, pg. 27-30)
A fourth essential for unity in the Church is maturity. Someone has defined maturity as “the ability to live in somebody else’s world and not complain.” The mature believer is not afraid of diversity or change, nor is he or she threatened by the gifts and ministries of others. The mature person promotes unity, not division, and resists the kind of conformity that stops people from growing. Paul described it this way:
“Till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:13-16).
We live in a world of giants and midgets. We are giants in knowledge, midgets in wisdom. We are giants in controlling nature, but we are midgets when it comes to controlling ourselves. We are giants in material things, midgets in spiritual things. We need to grow up.
This is also true of the local church. The marks of immaturity are in many churches: selfishness, instability, gullibility, being tossed to and fro by every new teaching that comes along. All of us can promote the unity of the church by contributing to its maturity, and we do this by maturing ourselves in the Christian life.
Maturity keeps unity from becoming uniformity. How does the human body maintain its diversity and its unity? By maturity – it grows. If you want to help your church grow spiritually so that it will grow in unity and in diversity, then follow the four principles for growth that Paul gave in Ephesians 4:12-16.
Principle #l: The body matures from within. A body does not grow by addition. It grows by nutrition. The cells do not add – they multiply. And that multiplication comes from nutrition. Imagine a child who is underweight. The mother goes to the butcher shop, buys several pounds of meat and puts it on the child. She weighs the child and rejoices to see that now the child’s weight is just right. But is the child healthier? No! The child has “grown” from addition but not from nutrition. The physical body matures from within.
In the same way, the church body matures from within. This inner growth comes when we feed on the Word of God. Paul called this “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). God’s truth, ministered in love, provides spiritual nutrition to the body. As you and I grow in our knowledge of Christ and His Word, then we will add to the maturity of the church. The Bible is our meat and our milk (I Cor. 3:1,2.) It is also our bread (Matt. 4:4) and our honey (Ps. 119:103). When you and I feed on the Word of God, when our church is nourished on the Word of God, then there will be nutrition, multiplication and edification.
But I fear that today we are facing a famine of the Word of God. Many people are not being fed the Word of God, nor do they know how to feed themselves. Instead of exposition and edification, we major on entertainment.
Pastors and Sunday school teachers need to realize how great a responsibility it is to teach and preach the Word of God. When you are ministering the Word of God, it is important to plan the diet and keep it balanced. We must not serve our people a meal of leftovers because we were too busy to prepare a fresh meal. And we must not turn the church family over to baby-sitters, who may only feed them “fast food” that will not nourish them.
Churches do not grow by addition. They grow by nutrition, as each part of the church body takes in the food of the Word of God and then does the work of the ministry. “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
Principle #2: The body matures in an atmosphere of love. Some years ago in a New York foundling hospital, the nurses performed a simple experiment. They divided a ward of little children into two groups. Each child was given the usual care, except for one thing: One group was not given love. They were fed, clothed and kept clean and safe; but they were not hugged or talked to, cuddled or loved. They had everything but tender loving attention.
Interestingly enough, the group that was not loved caught more sickness, had more problems and did not seem to grow as rapidly as the group that received special love. The experiment proved that love is essential to balanced growth.
This is true in the local church: Truth and love must go together. “But, speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Literally, Paul wrote: “But truthing in love.” By “truthing” he meant saying the truth and doing the truth. Truth is objective; love is subjective. And we must have both. You cannot build the Body of Christ in an atmosphere of law.
The preacher must preach the truth in love. The teacher must teach the truth in love. We must apply the truth in love, even when we must also administer discipline. Love without truth is hypocrisy, but truth without love is brutality. We do not want either one in our churches.
In Ephesians you find two prayers. The prayer in 1:15-23 emphasizes truth, while the prayer in 3:14-21 emphasizes love. Truth and love must go together in the local church. Once truth starts to vanish, no amount of love will compensate for it. At the same time, when love vanishes, then truth becomes hard and brittle. Blessed are the balanced!
© 2004 Warren W. Wiersbe
© by The Good News Broadcasting Association, Inc. All rights reserved.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).