Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Love The Church

I have gone through seasons as a Christian of nearly three decades of struggling in local church congregations: mostly feeling like I simply didn't fit in, not being able to find a place to belong, not building strong relationships and once deeply serving seeing the dirty side of the local church--the politics of those who rule the organization. 

So our family went through a new season for about three years: we were unchurched. It was not that we didn't want to be in a church. 

Beautiful old church in PA that I visited. Like many old church buildings it is being repurposed for other uses than worshipping God, because congregations in the NE of USA no longer are large enough to be housed in and to financially afford such a church building.
I confess, I was exhausted; I felt so beat up, rejected and unaccepted.

I smile when I wrote "rejected and unaccepted" thinking isn't that the same thing, but realizing that it is actually two different kinds of actions. Rejection is when you are let go, when you are told you don't fit or when some stops being your friend. Unaccepted is when you can't find a place to belong, when people smile but don't let you into their world. And through all we have experienced I am not bitter; I have so many dear Christian friends from every church we have ever attended for any length of time. Matter of fact, my dearest friends (my-come-along-side-spiritual-buddies) don't attend the same local congregation as I do now.

But most importantly, I am not bitter because I have in all seasons had a consistent loving relationship with Jesus. My relationship with God does not follow the ups and downs of my relationships with people. He is steadfast. He is faithful. His love never fails. He never gives up on me. He always accepts me with open arms. Truly, He talks to me and walks with me every day.

So how does all of this make me love the church? I have heard it said many times that the church is the bride of Jesus Christ. Interestingly, this phrase "the bride of Christ" is not in the Bible, but many passages of the Bible refer to the Church symbolically as Jesus' Bride. Here are a few I selected:

Revelation 19:7-9 - Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Revelation 21:2 - And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-27 - Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 
The church we belong to today (Experience Community in Murfreesboro, TN) does not have membership. It talks a lot about the Church as a whole being all of the Christians. We pray regularly for all the different local churches in our city and in the Nations. We are not in competition with other local organizations; we function out of a local group but we are taught to see ourselves as part of the whole Church, not simply a local group. This has really changed the way I view the Church. It no longer is in a building or one specific group; the walls are down and I see myself a part of all Christians whether I attend their "local church" or not. I view everyone as my brother and sisters. I honestly did this before but not as strongly. It is amazing how de-emphasizing membership has enlarged my view of the Bride of Christ and increase my love for His Church. It is also amazing how connected I now perceive myself to the Church. My love interweaves with the lives of all of my Christian brothers and sisters and we are a large living organism, not a local organization.

We are getting our feet wet and beginning to minister within our local church to serve others, but my service in Christ is everywhere. I don't ever see how I would feel like I didn't belong to the Church again, since I view myself as part of the entire Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world. It is freeing and enlarging my love for the Church. I thank God for allowing me to experience this and teaching me to understand what it means to be part of His Church and how to love Her with a passion that I never knew was possible.

My prayer for you is that you first know the Lord Jesus Christ intimately, personally and then that you engage with other believers embracing them, knowing that like you they are being sanctified by God, remembering:

 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like Love of the Brethren

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