I’ve served in ministry for five decades now, and I’m one to think about the changes I’ve seen, especially when I feel those changes are severely harming Christ's church. Many things have changed, but the most disappointing is the lack of communication and cooperation I see among local and denominational churches that basically hold to the same apostolic truths of the Christian faith. At the very time when the society around us is looking more and more like Romans 1, we aren’t heeding at all what the apostolic teaching and advice was to the church living in those days. It reminds me of the late Dr. Vance Havner's quote:
“When the spiritual tides are low, every shrimp has its own private puddle.”
They see their own work and only their work unless forced to look beyond. That’s not at all the N.T. example.
It’s both revealing and refreshing to go back to the instructions in the epistles of Paul and review them for dealing with a society not very different from our own. As we’d expect, they’re filled with the thrust of taking the gospel out to everyone in every place. But what we might not expect are his instructions filled with directions for encouraging and building up each other and the church as a whole universal body. (I Cor. 8:1; 1 Thes. 4:18; 5:11) Furthermore, he himself returned to most of the congregations either in person or in written form [Gal. 4:13-20; II Tim. 1:4] for the sole purpose of encouragement.
What we see from the earliest days of the New Testament phase of the church is that their outreach was twofold: (1) evangelism and witness, (2) encouragement and comfort. From reading Acts, it clearly appears that one went hand in hand with the other and resulted in both a strongly connected and unified body and one that genuinely cared for other members in that body.
Most of those reading this are in churches that believe in the connectional concept of the body of Christ. That simply means that we see the church not as merely a local body of believers, but rather a unified global family that crosses denominational boundaries.
In our spiritually disfunctional and disconnected world, we hear a great deal about our Biblical mandate to get the gospel out to the lost. I don’t want to minimize that in any way. But the fact of the matter is the early N.T. church set the precedent for us by reaching out with a mandate to encourage as they spread the gospel of grace. With many Christians beyond our denominational walls so totally overwhelmed and discouraged by our secularistic age and its many faceted problems, let us again take up this part of our apostolic mandate and show that we care about those others in God's forever family. Why? Because we read
“And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day of the Lord's coming and judgment drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24-25 )