I hardly ever come to write knowing the title of the post. Today I did.
First of all, I love my church family. Second, the church is Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12.12ff.), and as you know each part of a body has a different purpose. The same is true for the church. Each member has talents and gifts God has given them to advance His purpose.
That fundamental point is essential in understanding what church is. In the first century after Jesus ascended into the heavens there was literally one church. We are now in the twenty-first century, and though there is still one church there are countless fellowships across this global village who worship Jesus.
I grew up in churches in several different places, and one of them was even on a U.S. territory called Guam. My brother Jason was born there. My family of origin and I only lived there for a year because there was not enough financial support to stay there. A similar thing happened in South Dakota when I was a sophomore in high school. We ended up moving to Michigan where I finished high school before going to college in Tennessee.
I write this post from the same city I graduated college and grad school in Tennessee. My wife, daughter and I attend a local congregation here that happens to be a Church of Christ. Churches of Christ are numerous and in some cases large like the one we attend here in Nashville. Large to me is over 200 people. It’s what you would call a middle of the road kind of Church of Christ because the corporate worship is still acapella (without musical instruments), and for the most part women do not participate publicly very often in the corporate assembly. They do teach children and other women.
Right now though I am privileged to assist Sherry Murray on Wednesday nights as she teaches some youngsters about studying the Bible. Her gentleness and kindness with those children is incredible to behold. Coupled with that knowledge and ability to communicate is just as inspiring. Not everyone has been called to do what Sherry is doing every Wednesday night. We aren’t supposed to because once again God has given each one of us different talents to use as the body of the church.
Bob and Roy have a gift to teach Greek. I have a gift for hospitality as I make coffee Sunday after Sunday for about 200 people. My friend Lewis has a gift for foreign missions, language learning and bringing unbelievers to Christ. God rejoices whenever one of us connects with a believer or unbeliever because He made us to interact with each other the way He interacts with the Son and Holy Spirit (John 17). Our stories are intertwined even when we are mean to each other. We burn bridges, and division happens, but when we call on the name of Jesus, seek Him and apply His teachings to our lives unity is what is created.
Many people demand that church be done the way they want church done because that’s the way they’ve always done it. That’s fine. Jesus can still work through that, but sometimes Jesus calls us to a better way of reaching those who have fallen away or never knew Him to begin with. It’s still the same message. He lived here among us for thirty-three years, He was crucified, but on the third day His body was raised from the dead. Those facts make Him a master over death. We will die here, but we will be raised to spend eternity with our Father and His Son. Oh yeah, the Holy Spirit will be there too. That just reminded me of when I was a youth pastor. I was baptizing someone, but I forgot to add the Holy Spirit before I baptized them. I baptized them in the name of the Father and Son, but I left off the Holy Spirit. The “powers” that be decided it was ok, and that I would not have to re-baptize the person. Sometimes the church gets hung up on things like that, and Satan accomplishes his best work in the midst of conflict like that amongst believers.
Max Lucado wrote it well, “When fisherman don’t fish they fight.” Conflict is part of life, and it obviously happens in the church too because sin affects the church just as much as it affects all areas of life. God didn’t create the church to be a sterile organism without sin. He created the church to be a place where we can go to get hope in the victory over darkness. We’re going to sin, but every time we turn back to God He is running out to meet us with open arms. It really is that simple.
John 3.16 is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible, and if you don’t know what it says here it is.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life.
Whoever does not believe will perish. I’m doing my best to show others the ways of Jesus so they will believe. I don’t go to church because I’ve figured life out. I’m far from it, and I deserve death, but because God loves me I choose to be a part of a church that is trying to obey God. We aren’t always successful, hence the existence of sin, but even when we sin God isn’t this all seeing eyeball looking to judge us the minute we do. He is a loving and merciful God who is the perfect parent for the imperfect church. He is perfectly equipped to deal with His 7 billion children. I trust that that power is equipping me to be the man I need to be for my church, my wife and my daughter. It’s not necessarily in that order sometimes.
I think as long as I’m seeking Him first, albeit imperfectly, then all these other things will be added. It’s when I put other things before Him that sin creeps in to control me.
That’s why I ultimately need the church. I need it because God works through it to draw me close to Himself. It’s not even about me really. It’s about the purpose and purity of God’s agenda. I get ideas in my head about how I want church to cater to my needs, but I need to lay those down, and pray that I become less.
When I become less Jesus becomes more, and that’s when the church is perfect.