John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)
This may seem to be a situation in which was isolated to the times of Jesus, seeing as it was someone casting out demons, but what if we inserted another action – preaching in Jesus’ name, holding prayer meetings in Jesus’ name, ministering to the homeless in Jesus’ name…the list could go on. And the reason John gave for trying to stop this person who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name was “because he doesn’t follow with us”. This in our modern times would be like saying, “because he doesn’t go to our church”.
Now in our minds, we may instantly think, well that’s silly, of course we wouldn’t try to stop another church from teaching and praying and ministering to the homeless. But what about when they plan an outreach on the same day as your church? What about if their congregation is bigger or smaller? What about when their ministries seem to yield more fruit than your church’s similar ministries?
See how things can be a slippery slope when you start differentiating between believers of different congregations? Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t be discerning, because not every establishment that calls themselves a church is a bible teaching and Jesus following congregation that makes up Jesus’ whole Church. But if they are indeed teaching the bible and following Jesus, then they are our brothers and sisters. So why on earth would Christians being clicky?
The True Battle
Ephesians tells us that our war isn’t with flesh and blood, and Jesus tells us here that anyone who is not against us is for us. In light of the spiritual battle we’re facing, don’t you want more brothers and sisters in fellowship and prayerful support? Sure, you and they may be growing in different sheep folds, but you’re both co-heirs and servants in the kingdom of God and both your folds have the same head, which is Christ.
The bible tells us that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, but will the gates of hell storm itself? Will the ambassadors of Christ be able to storm those gates if they’re too concerned with how another ambassador is storming them, or even worse, something even pettier such as which pastor God is using to shepherd them?
Jesus’ Church can’t effectively outreach to the lost and make disciples if it’s battling clicks within itself.
Now this response from John comes after Jesus’ gentle rebuke over the disciples’ argument over who was the greatest. It really could be a deflective response or still operating in pride trying to appear great by promoting an action he thought was good. Regardless of the reason John said it, Jesus’ answer still applies – “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
You may be part of a large church, medium church, small church, city church, country church, home church – the size and location really don’t matter. The early church met both in houses and corporately, but the key was that they devoted themselves to teaching, prayer, fellowship, and breaking of bread and Jesus grew His Church. (Acts 2:42-47)
Your pastor may be a great speaker, in the way the early church in Corinth thought of Apollos, or a not so enthralling speaker, the way the early church in Corinth thought of Paul; yet the power of a pastor’s words isn’t found in their ability to be a great public speaker or rouser of emotion, the power is found in the Word in which they teach from and the Holy Spirit who empowers them. So, if our loyalty, awe, motivation to go to church, or reason for wanting to serve is over our pastor, or anything other than Jesus for that matter, then we’ve made an idol out of them.
Testing Our Own Hearts
This calls for a diagnostic of our own hearts. How do we respond, even in our own minds, when we think of or encounter other Jesus following church congregations? Do we jump at the chance to fellowship and/or serve alongside them or do we shy away and keep them at arm’s length simply because they belong to another church?
Just because we don’t actively try to stop them the way John had done with the man casting out demons in Jesus’ name, doesn’t mean there’s not a problem to irradicate in our own hearts. Sin starts in the heart long before it becomes an action, and being clicky – which is showing partiality – is sin.
Next time you see a fellow brother or sister from another Jesus following church congregation or see a ministry from another Jesus following church congregation, test whether you have joy at seeing a sibling in Christ or a work of God being done, or whether there’s some partiality you need to seek God’s help carving out of your life.
I’ll leave you with a portion of Jesus’ high priestly prayer, in which He prayed for His whole Church in John 17:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23)