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Reflections on Church Part II

I have spent almost all of my life in the Church.

As a kid, my mother gathered up the four of us
(I was the oldest) and carried us to Sunday School and worship at Long’s Chapel Methodist Church near Lake Junaluska. We never had a discussion about it. We just understood it was where we would be on Sunday mornings. In fact, we began to prepare on Saturday evening—laying out our Sunday clothes, polishing our shoes, taking our weekly bath!

Honestly, there were many summer Sundays
I wanted to stay home and play. But looking back,
I realize now everything I would have missed had
my mother not made it our Sabbath ritual. For
one thing, I was so fortunate in being surrounded
by “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1)— those dear saints who welcomed me, taught me about faith, prayed for me, and loved me uncondition- ally. Second, I count my blessings for the seeds of faith that were planted in my heart even as a child, and how they took root in ways I would never have expected. Most important of all, I am grateful for the faith that was passed on to me and for knowing the One who walks with me every day and is quick to show me the Way.

A big step in that Way, of course, was the call to ordained ministry. That was really unexpected, and something I wrestled with for a couple of years. Like Moses, I had all kinds of excuses as to why this couldn’t be. But then, also like Moses, I didn’t do any better arguing with God either.

So, yes, I have spent most of my life in the Church. And over that time, my view of the Church of Jesus Christ has never wavered. I am not saying the Church is perfect—far from it– and we know why.

None of us are perfect either. So often, we fail in living out our own calling as Christ- followers, don’t we? Truly, a church—any church, including this one we call our own—is only as Christ-like and loving and welcoming and generous and faithful as we are.

Let me share with you a few of the reasons why I have such a high view of the Church:

First of all, the Church is a gift from Christ himself. It is what he left us so we can carry on his work in the world. It means that you and I (and every congregation) are the hands and feet and voice and heart of Christ, and our calling is to “move out and serve” him. And because he has called us into the Church, it also means being a “member” is the highest privilege you and I can ever have. And that is because Christ himself calls us.

Second, the Church is not an institution. We are mistaken when we see it as such. It is the living “Body of Christ!” So often, we say we are “going to” the church, but Jesus says we “are” the Church. The Church isn’t so much a place or a building; it’s us!

Third, the Church offers opportunities for spiritual growth through fellowship, prayer, service, and
the giving of ourselves, especially when we come together to worship. Did you know that worship literally means the “work of the people?” Worship isn’t about a preferred style or even meeting our
own needs (although we are the ones who are most often blessed by regular worship); it’s about turning our eyes and hearts on God. Jesus said the greatest commandment of all is “to love God with all our hearts and minds and souls.” Worship helps us to live out this commandment.

Fourth, parents can give their children a lot of things, but none is greater than the gift of faith. It is the only gift that is truly eternal. My father worked on Sundays, so my mother took us to Church. What a precious gift she gave us! The Apostle Paul says there is nothing more important than what was given to him through faith in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:7- 11). Certainly, we want the same for our young people, don’t we?

In this day and time, it is true we have lots of choices as to how we spend our time and energy. I am not saying that is a bad thing. Not at all. Still, Jesus did give us one choice that draws us closer to Him and others—He gave us the Church.

Summer is winding down. Kids are back to school this week. Lots of things starting up for the fall. Time to get back to being the Church, too.

In the love of Christ,

Mike

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