One of the privileges of pastoral ministry is being invited into the lives of other people. I get to share wonderful joy in weddings and child dedications. I grieve with many in time of death and I bring comfort to those who are sick. I remember when a young man died. His family called me to their home where his body rested as he had fallen. I found the man’s father kneeling by his son’s body crying, murmuring words of loving affection. I felt no need to quote Scripture or even to pray aloud. Nothing I could say would comfort him, so I stood by, my hand on his shoulder to remind him that he was not alone, and we were brothers in sorrow for a long time. That is called the “ministry of ‘presence.’”
It is not just those of us who are pastors who can offer the gift of presence. All Christians are called into relationship, to bear one another’s burdens, to share their gifts for mutual benefit. Paul teaches us “When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:15-16, NLT) There is strength and fulfillment to be discovered in the relationships of the Church.
Want to be the best for Christ you can be? Commit yourself to His Church.
Want to experience the most joy of the Lord? Create strong relationships in the Church.
Want to have a reserve of strength for the tough times? Keep your ties strong to His Church.
The New Testament consistently emphasizes the shared experience of Christ to which we are called. “The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” (Ephesians 1:23, The Message) “So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” (Romans 14:19, NLT)
When we become a Christian, through faith in Jesus, the next step is to become part of a local church. There we can start to fulfil the high calling of Christ as part of a whole new social order, one God created. It is a place where the old lines of separation are erased. “So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT)
You have not found that in your church? Then, pray for change, for unity, for a renewed focus on Christ Jesus.
If your church has become a political action committee, or devolved into a place where the most exciting event is the next church supper, or turned worship into a performance – pray for God’s leading to find a church that desires to be the Body of Christ. It need not be big or beautiful. It won’t be perfect and if it were, it would no longer be when you or me or any other imperfect human being showed up. (joke, there, ok?) Look for true devotion, for hunger for God’s Presence, for 2-fold love: for God, for others. AND – be present! If disappointment or disillusionment causes you to be absent from church, you are hurting yourself, and if you have children, you are assuring that they will completely abandon the faith.
Being part of a church requires many of the same choices as building a strong marriage – patience, gentleness, adaptability, communication, growth – to name a few. Your church, if alive, will continue to change, always focused on the Gospel of Christ, but learning new ways to live that Good News. Dysfunctional people will drag their relational mess into your church creating times of tension. Those who lead will sometimes get it right and sometimes make a mess of things! People will delight you and disappoint you in equal measure.
That is why Spirit-inspired and sustained LOVE is critical. The Word tells us that “the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” (Colossians 3:14-16, NLT) That sounds like a community of Christians in which I want to live. How about you?
In an era where many are choosing a privatized faith, when many are abandoning the Church, let’s choose God’s way, for the sake of obedience, and with a profound faith in the Spirit’s power. He calls us, as part of following His Son, into the rich work of His church, His bride. Let’s learn to be present to one another, simply loving, simply being, trusting that He will form us into beautiful people “who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:14, NIV)
The word from the Word is my prayer for us, together, as we desire to be His Church. “I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.
May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19, NLT) Amen
If We Are The Body
(Casting Crowns asks us to think about the Church)
It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girls teasing laughter is carrying
Farther than they know
Farther than they know
(But) if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
(There is a way)
A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly
Sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better
Out on the road
Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ
Jesus is the way
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