Let me start by saying, "I Love the Local Church" and believe that the Lord Jesus Christ established it and gave His very own blood for her. I believe that as Hebrews says "As Believers we are to be a part of a local church and not forsake her." Even though She is not perfect because we as humans make it up, She is perfect in the eyes of the Lord and He will be coming (possibly before I finish writing this blog) to take the Church (His Bride) home to heaven. But until He does there are still issues that have to be worked on while we are here. One has to do with what my friend posted about and what happens in many churches today. We get hung up on things, "STUFF," that are small Personal Preferences and we make them to be more than what they should be in the church and in our lives. And the things that should matter like repentance, forgiveness, sinfulness, righteousness, holiness, etc. get sat to the wayside because of Personal Preferences. So I want to address the issue today, "Personal Preferences Vs. Biblical Priorities".
I guess the question that I want to ask first is, "When has the church become a place of Personal Preferences over Biblical Priorities or has it always been that way?" The first example of the "organized" church comes from the Book of Acts. The church in Acts was a church that was much different from the church today, and rightly so in some ways and unrightly (if that is a word (my spell check tells me it isn't) but I will use it any ways) so in others. But I think one can trace it back even further than the early church even as far back as the Children of Israel. I recall in Exodus 15 where the Personal Preference of the people was to have comfort and sweet (or good) water and because they did not they were willing to complain about what they had, grip about the leader and they were even willing to go back into bondage (there is a Spiritual Implication as well as a Physical one there) for this comfort and convenience. I also have seen this as well in my years of ministry that when someone places Personal Preference as a higher priority than Biblical Priority then it is almost always out of convenience and comfort! Don't get me wrong, I don't think Personal Preferences are wrong or bad, as a matter of fact I love Personal Preferences. I like to choose a colorful shirt over a white shirt to wear for church or I like to choose to wear blue jeans on Wednesday night church over a suit and tie. Personal Preferences are good and I don't think they would be a big issues if preferences always took a backseat to Biblical Priorities. Let me illustrated it in this way. Only one of these (Personal Preference or Biblical Priority) can have a higher standing than the other (I think that is stating the obvious but I just wanted to be clear here). So then one (Personal Preference or Biblical Priority) becomes subservient to the other. The problem comes in when Personal Preference does not takes its subservient role under Biblical Preferences but the roles get reversed and Personal Preferences become the ruler over Biblical Priority. When this happens then the driving force of the individual Christian and in return the Church becomes the Personal Preference over Biblical Priorities. And in turn, if you will, the tail starts to wag the dog rather than the other way around.
So how does this play out in the individual's life and in the church? Just like it did in Exodus 14! The people started looking at what they had in the past that looked so good compared to what they had now. They had forgot how bad slavery was, and they forgot how bad the oppression was, they could not remember what it was like to be told to make bricks all day long; all they could remember was how sweet the water was back in Egypt. You see, they could not see their present blessing for looking back at their past. What did they do then? Instead of looking within themselves to find a cure or a way to better the situation they looked for someone to blame for the current situation. So they started complaining about Moses and how he had lead them to this point (mind you under the guidance and leadership of God). If you will, they couldn't see the forest for the trees. They really refused to look at their own Spiritual Condition and wanted to deflect it toward another. They started looking at what was best for them, what was convenient for them, what felt easier to them and those are the things that became their guiding force (Again on must ask, Personal Preference or Biblical Principle?). They could not see, what the Lord was trying to do in their life, what he was doing around them, that He was actually trying to lead them into freedom, nor could they see what the Lord was doing in their "group" or even how this might be used as a witness for the "gentile" cultures around them. Rather than looking at it from a Biblical Perspective they chose to look at it from a Personal Preference perspective. So they turned on the only one that they unite against and that was Moses. Again, it all goes back to the convenience of Personal Preference over Biblical Priority. One can also look at the early church and see what Paul and other writers had to say about this issue as well. There were times when Personal Preferences became the guide for some of those early believers. There were some earlier believers that tried to say that "Eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols was wrong," there were others that tried to get followers in the New Testament church to hold to Old Testament Laws out of Personal Preferences and convenience rather than what God was telling them. Another time came when the church leaders tried to tell the Jew that the only way to truly be converted to Christianity was to go through the process of circumcision. When that is not what the Lord had in mind for the Jew. There was still another time when the waiting of tables became the issue and the idea that some of the widows (and orphans) were not being taken care of, "by the preachers." So the Lord lead them to set up a system for the leaders to take care of those needs so those that were called to preach/teach/pastor could do so and the ones set aside to minister to the widows and orphans were to do that; this is where the office of deacon came on the scene. Was this a matter of Personal Preference or Biblical Priority? It was a matter of Biblical Priority that God chose to set in place!
Biblical Priorities should always, always, always, be the Guide and everything else falls under it's guiding light. If it is a Personal Preference then it is sin if it takes it's priority over Biblical Priority. As a pastor and leader God has called me to lead, preach and teach to Believers (Discipleship) and to lead those that are non-believers into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Salvation). The Bible then tells that the other responsibilities visitation, taking care of widows and orphans, and ministering is the responsibility of all of the church (of which the pastor and the deacons are part of). You see, as a pastor I am a member of the local church just like anyone else. I had to move my membership to the church just like everyone else that has joined the church and I am a church member just like anyone else the only difference is that I have been given a specific ministry in, through, and to the church; with more responsibility, and a greater accountability to the Lord, according to the Word!!
Let me close with one last thought, the next time you start to get upset over something or at someone ask yourself this question, "Does the Bible speak about this issue in a clear and concise way?" If it does then move forward to remedy the situation by going to that person just as Matthew 18 describes. But if it doesn't, then realize what you have is a Personal Preference not a Biblical Priority. God bless you and I pray that this has blessed you as you have read it and has given you some insight about this issue of Personal Preference vs. Biblical Priority!!