“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10)
Our lives are our testimonies, and mine is littered with miracles. Each of my days has begun with a new and unique sunrise, one the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Giving up on the church, to me, would be to deny the Artist who paints the sky each morning, and who writes the pages of my days with me faithfully, patiently, and providentially.
You may be experiencing mixed feelings about the church. You may have experienced deep hurt or even abuse, or simply have been turned off by the vitriol and politics the church becomes caught up in emotions rise and offenses increase. The church has seen some ugly times. And yet, even in her ugliness, her infighting, her scandal and shame, Jesus still calls her his bride. Although it may be hard to see sometimes what’s so lovely about this flawed and stumbling body of believers, I won’t give up her.
I won’t give up on the church because I believe in Christ Jesus, who named the church His chosen agent for bringing the good news of His Kingdom to the world.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23)
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1. In Obedience to God’s Command to Love one Another
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. But this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Every church has the potential to fall into a legalistic, rule-following approach to faith. Churches are made up of people, and every single one of us is imperfect. Sin and evil run rampant in the world. Believers in Christ Jesus are sealed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God, but are still promised a painful and difficult existence on this planet. However, knowing what a hot mess we all are, God still chose us. He chose to create us with unique purpose, as unique as each morning sunrise, and sunset. No two are the same, not even one. He chose to love us, as we are. And in the greatest act of love of all time, He sacrificed His Son for our forgiveness. There is no greater love.
I won’t give up on church because of that love. Because of the command to love others. Church isn’t a building we go to on Sundays. We are the church. Every believer. So, why gather together as a community? To love each other. And the way we love each other gives hope to people who have none, and don’t know it’s available to them. The church, with all its flaws and complications, aims to love others, both within the community of believers and especially beyond. We love one another on a different level when we share the saving grace of Christ Jesus. It’s a love we cannot contain, and must share!
2. To Experience the Presence of God
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
It doesn’t happen every Sunday, but occasionally, and especially in difficult and pain-ridden seasons, standing in worship at church allows God to touch and move my heart to tears — sometimes sobs. His presence is palpable in a room full of people praising Him, seeking Him. He shows up for us. Worshipping in a church full of believers and seekers is an amazing and uplifting feeling. Church is a place we come to be in the presence of God. It’s a filling, convicting, encouraging presence which brings us back to who He is and reminds us Whose we are. There is camaraderie in coming together to worship God.
The presence of God is healing, convicting, clarifying, and equipping. He prepares us when we obediently sit in His presence. I won’t give up on the church because I believe He equips the pastors who faithfully preach on Sunday. When we are all in and expectantly sitting in the presence of God, sermons become powerful, personal messages from our faithful Father. He compassionately parents us as we grow in our faith and walk with Christ Jesus. We can listen to sermons on podcasts, but there’s something intensely moving about sitting in the presence of God alongside our community of believers and seekers, witnessing God move through a message.
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3. Human Beings were Created for Community
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)
Several times a day our Bible study group chat lights up with prayer requests. We rally in prayer for each other daily. Our group started with people God had placed in my life and on my heart to invite, and it grew from there. The door is always open, to anyone, from any church. Some of us go to the same church, and some are seeking. God brings us together for a reason. He isn’t a God of coincidence. We have grown over the years by sharing our different faith backgrounds and learning about each other. Together, we seek God, and commit to studying His Word. And we invite people to Church.
Church is not just a place we come to on Sundays, or for meetings and events. It’s a place to find other people to follow Jesus with. Small groups and Bible Studies, Clubs and Youth groups, and opportunities to serve the community and the world together abound. It’s really important for us to connect with each other in our everyday lives. We were not meant to do life alone, and we do life seven days a week, not just on Sundays. I won’t give up on the church because as scary as it can be for a girl who is afraid of people leaving her life, I need to be known.
We all need to be known, not just for who we are in the world, but our God-given place in it. Church allows us to find a place to serve others with the gifts we have been given, reaching out into the local community together. People are suffering in multiple ways, and we are called as the church to care for them as He cares for us. We are meant to be known, so on hard days God can hug us through friends who will storm the gates of heaven with prayer on our behalf. We can ask questions about our faith within our church communities, and find the help and healing we all need with our particular struggles.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 reads: “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”
Oh, to be a vessel of God’s love in a world which desperately needs hope and peace. This is our charge as the church: to show up and obediently seek Him and serve others. He promises all we can ask for or imagine along the way.
Church isn’t perfect, God is. I will never give up on church, because even though I know it's not a prerequisite for God's presence, I trust His will for me to be a working part of it. For there to be a revival, we have to come together locally. We all need a church home, an actual space to come face to face with people who will love and accept us right where we are, just as Jesus does. There is actual work to do in our communities which requires us to come together despite our differences to fulfill the charge to love one another. To God be the glory, and may our lives reflect and honor Him every day – not just on Sunday.
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Originally published Tuesday, 22 June 2021.