Side By Side

opryland2013Nashville and Opryland were an absolute blast! Three photos from my phone accompany this post. Enjoy. For those of you who weren’t able to make the trip this year, just wait ‘til next year. Even better.

May I suggest something rather simple, friends? Delight in each other. We’ve been blessed with a wonderful fellowship of believers here. Don’t take it for granted. Thank the Lord for it every day.

May I make another small suggestion? Laugh with each other. Have fun with each other. Do some things with each other solely for the purpose of building solid relationships within the church. And have a rip-roaring good time while you’re doing it. I can’t overstate how important that is, always.

Because, if we’re not careful, we quickly evolve into thinking about “church” in categories that are organizational, corporate, and “business” in nature. We think numbers and budgets and flow charts and … well, you know what I mean.

Fundamentally, however, we’re family.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, he began his letter with verbal blessings of “grace” and “peace” – and we can tell from the very onset of his writing that he is affectionately invested in the church’s well-being in every way. They’re his family. Later in Chapter 4, as Paul prepares to wrap up that particular correspondence, he’s still speaking to the church members as family members. Consider with me Philippians 4:1-9.

Notice how Paul cares about individual members of the body, people like Euodia and Syntyche. We don’t really know who these women are, but we know that they’re at odds with each other – and that the division between them bothers Paul. These ladies have been his co-laborers – “side by side” – in the ministry of Christ’s gospel. If their contention isn’t snuffed out, it’s likely to spread within the church. That’s what can happen within families.


We can assume from the fact that Paul addresses both women that he considers both of them to be part of the problem – and both of them part of the solution. He tells them that they must come to agreement. They must purpose to come together “in the Lord.” These two are not going to get through this difficulty (or even around this difficulty) in their own strength – they’re going to need to experience authentic Biblical reconciliation. Praise God that we have the power of the living Jesus in us (in each one of us who belongs to Christ) to get through church conflict! Nothing less than resurrection power (Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:20)! Paul calls upon others in the church to help these women reconcile.

Sometimes even genuine believers go through real rough spots with each other. Just like husbands and wives. And parents and children. But God is able! If the gospel is true – and it is – then we can get through anything with each other. Since Paul is so sure of that gospel hope, he explains to the Philippians how they can have both peace of heart and peace of mind – with God and with each other. Why? Because we are together, and because we are in Christ.And notice also that Paul seems to truly believe that every person he’s mentioning is a committed Christian – “whose names are in the book of life.” Sometimes we get so angry with people whom we perceive to have mistreated us that we conclude that they must not know Christ. That may be true, but that may also be a dead-wrong assumption. We better leave much room for grace in the lives of others – especially those from whom we may feel presently estranged.

So Paul gives us our marching orders. If we’re thinking thoughts of other church members that aren’t true thoughts, we must stop thinking those thoughts. Not honorable thoughts? Stop! Unjust? Stop! Impure? Stop! I won’t exhaust the list because I know you get the point. Stop!

I don’t mean to imply that the only time we need to worry about our thought life is when we’re at odds with each other, but I just want to make sure that we’re sufficiently bothered by thoughts of each other that are less than edifying. We should be bothered. We should stop. We should pray. We should forgive. We should seek forgiveness. We should be reconciled. “Grace and peace.”

Our church is experiencing a delightful season of peace, for which we must humbly praise our Lord and Savior. Now is the time to fortify our commitment to “grace and peace.” Now is the time to pray for each other. Now is the time to pursue unity with each other – to seek to understand and appreciate each other. And even to laugh with each other. (Never take yourself too seriously. I’m trying not to.)

That we may walk side by side.


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2 comments on “Side By Side
  1. Judy Sheppard says:

    I love everything you write, but this one is so accurate and cannot (in my opinion) be overstated. Bill and I do not have a problem with overlooking and forgiving, but some hold their emotions on their sleeve. FBC Paducah held us together when our son died. They were the “blood” family neither of us are fortunate to have. And laughter – can’t tell you how important Bill Sheppard has been in my life to provide humor and impishness. We are soul-mates who love to laugh. Thank you, brother.

  2. Carl/Alva says:

    The trip was a “blast!!!!” – even the mixed-emotion event of running off and leaving two couples and having to return to hotel and pick them up. None of us could believe we did that. O’well having too much fun!!!!!
    and Pastor Charles if you didn’t know, you do now —keeping on track of, shall we say thirty to fifty “seniors” in a strange surrounding is not an easy assignment as Alva, Marie,and I have discovered in our senior trip travels. But it is fun and a blessing to serve others. You did a great job and we appreciated your time and leadership

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