What is the priority of the church? Is it worship? Is it evangelism? Is it discipleship? Just what is the church here for?
If we ask that question of many believers, we will get a variety of answers. Some will tell us that the priority of the church must be evangelism, as, after all, evangelism is one of the very few things that the church can do here on earth that will not be possible in heaven. Others will prioritize worship, citing the Scriptural priority of the glory of God.
In truth, I’m not interested in what we say is the priority of the church right now. Instead, I am interested in what our actions display as the priority of the church. What do the things we do, the tactics we adopt, the choices we make indicate about what we really believe to be our priority? What are we willing to compromise on the one hand to accomplish what we think is most important on the other? That tells us much about what we value.
2 Corinthians 4:1-2 – 1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
Paul shows us by what he would not do something of great value as to what is important for the church. In all that he did, in all the preaching and evangelizing, Paul would not cross a particular line. Paul would not tamper with or compromise the word of God. No cunning, no sly tactics, no underhanded ruse was an acceptable avenue. Paul wanted to glorify God by upholding the word of God and speaking the truth of God.
Paul would not compromise on the word of God, even to appeal to a broader audience. He would not say that the gospel should be unhitched from the offensive Old Testament. Paul would not say that we shift from the word of God to appeal to modern times. No, drawing a crowd and appealing to people apart from Scripture was not at all the priority that God inspired Paul to set for the early church.
And in our culture, any priority that causes us to hide, to tamper with, to reinterpret, or to do away with Scripture is not a godly priority. Honoring God by loving him in accord with his word is our priority. When that word causes people not to want the church, we must not tinker with the word or compromise the truth to try to avoid the hardships. No, God makes it clear that his glory and his word are above all priorities in the church.
Thankfully, his word calls us to love one another, to share the gospel, to sing God’s praise, and to do many other things that honor the Lord. We are not in an either-this-or-that position. We can love God, keep his word, and care for each other. We must do so. But the point is that we do not in any way shrink away from the word of God for any other thing. To do so is to adopt a priority that was not Paul’s and is not God’s.
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.