Francis Schaeffer reminds that when we really want to “reach the world,” or “win our friends to Christ,” or “see people saved,” or “share the gospel effectively,” we must remember an essential part of our ability to do that–the level at which we maintain our personal relationships with other believers. I can’t blow off my fellow Christian, or neglect my church fellowship, or be OK with grudges and divisions, and then expect to have a meaningful connection with the non-believers in my life. Here’s Schaeffer’s thoughts:
The world has a right to look upon us and make a judgment.
We are told by Jesus that as we love one another the world will judge, not only whether we are His disciples, but whether the Father sent the Son. The final apologetic, along with the rational, logical defense and presentation, is what the world sees in the individual Christian and in our corporate relationships together. The command that we should love one another surely means something much richer than merely organizational relationship, but one may look at those bound together in an organized group called a church and see nothing of a substantial healing of the division between people in the present life. On the other hand, while there is “the invisible Church” (that is, everyone who is a Christian living anywhere in the world), yet the Church is not to be hidden away, in an unseen area, as though it does not matter what men see.
What we are called to do, upon the basis of the finished work of Christ in the power of the Spirit through faith, is to exhibit a substantial healing, individual and then corporate, so that people may observe it. This too is a portion of the apologetic: a presentation which gives at least some demonstration that these things are not theoretical, but real; not perfect, yet substantial. If we only speak of and exhibit the individual effects of the gospel, the world, psychologically conditioned as it is today, will explain them away.
What the world cannot explain away will be a substantial, corporate exhibition of the logical conclusions of the Christian presuppositions. It is not true that the New Testament presents an individualistic concept of salvation. Individual, yes–we must come one at a time; but it is not to be individualistic. First there must be the individual reality, and then the corporate. Neither will be perfect in this life, but they must be real.
I have discovered that hard [modern] people do not expect Christians to be perfect. They do not throw it in our teeth when, individually or corporately, they find less than perfection in us.
They do not expect perfection, but they do expect reality; and they have a right to expect reality, upon the authority of Jesus Christ.