Why does Grace on Parade talk about the organized church so much?
I love the church. I get excited when I think of what it can accomplish.
Church becomes like family. In fact, it’s the best family of all. Families show up to help each other. Parents help adult children move. Moms come to help out when that new grandbaby arrives. Who do you call when disaster strikes? My church family has fulfilled all these roles when my family hasn’t been available. When our daughter flew in from China and was to start a new job in another city in three days, ten believers gathered to help her load a borrowed trailer and van and a dozen people we didn’t even know from a nearby church shoed up to unload at her new apartment. That’s the kind of stuff families do.
Beyond that, the local body of believers can encircle those going through a rough time that even the best of close knit families can’t do. Recently, one of our church members was hitting a brick wall in getting the medical attention he needed. Our church put out a few calls to ask those closest to the family to gather for prayer. Twenty-two showed up on a Sunday evening to pray, lay hands on the couple, and implore the Lord with tears for His intervention. It was one of the most beautiful gatherings I have ever experienced.
Sometimes the church messes up. Big time. Paul didn’t warn the Ephesian church about wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing for nothing. The church is made up of people who are reaching toward Christ. In their struggle against their sinful natures, they sometimes hurt other people. Hurt people hurt. Wounded people wound. Weak people aren’t as strong as we need them to be. And as hard as it is to accept, there will be people within the ranks who have no desire to reach beyond their sinful nature toward the Lord.
Believe me, I know. I’ve been personally hurt enough I could have turned my back on the organized church at least a dozen times over. I’ve been called the wife of Satan by a former church leader. Another time, the leadership abruptly asked my pastor-husband to leave without explanation. Lies have been spread about both of us. Once I was criticized because I got teary in public over my infant daughter’s disability.
Sometimes people trying to work together and become close to each other are like two porcupines trying to get close to each other on a cold winter’s night. Yet involvement in the church is worth the risk of being hurt. Instead of focusing on how immature, selfish, or sinful someone else is, it’s my job to focus on becoming more like Christ so that I don’t hurt someone else. It’s my job to let go of my preferences and personal opinions so the church at large can accomplish the bigger job of evangelizing, baptizing and teaching the next generation of believers.
After all, it’s not about me. A mission organization I know of has the right idea. After their short term workers complete their session, the leaders gather them for debriefing. They tell the workers story upon story of what God is accomplishing through the organization. The message is clear. Look at what God is doing, not through your individual efforts but through our combined efforts. Individually we may be weak, wounded, or spiritually clumsy. Together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are strong. When we work in tandem, we can get a lot done for Jesus.
That’s why Grace on Parade is filled with ideas of what the church can do at large. When we band together, we make a bigger parade that gets a lot more press. A dozen roses has more intense aroma than a single rose. An entire garden of roses, daisies or lilacs is downright glorious. Somehow you forget the single flower tucked in the middle that might look a tad more scraggly than the others. It’s the whole picture, the sweet swelling aroma that rises heavenward.
Join the team. Do your part. Use your unique gifts in combination with the skills and gifts of others. Get over the petty stuff and move on. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and release the bad stuff. Make big things happen.
Because the church is worth it.
When have you witnessed the church at its best? Tell us about it.