Many people do not understand God’s institution of a local church. I’m not sure I do either. It’s one of those things that when I hear something that’s right, I can “Amen” it, or easily assent to it in my mind, but if I had to explain it or teach it I’d feel ill-prepared. That’s one of the reasons I’m very excited that the next Sunday school series we’re having at my church, Berean Baptist Church, is about the local church.
But for tonight, I just want to enjoy the peace and love I find there. Tonight my church moved into our new building. For some people there, it was a wait of over 35 years. For me, it was bittersweet. I found my church, by the grace of God in December of 2007. Fresh off a divorce from a failed marriage, I was also divorcing the church I attended when I was saved. I was scared and lonely and had know idea what to expect. I found a church that proclaimed God’s Word and didn’t mix worldly sentiments or behaviors with church. I didn’t care how old the building was. I didn’t care how long they’d waited for a newer, cleaner, prettier building. I found a home where I could be taught God’s Word by people who really understood it. I could be discipled by men who had followed Christ for many years. I admit, I cared little for the comfort of the chairs, the lighting or acoustics, or how many empty seats there were between me and the next person. Funny, if we want space between us, why not just separate the chairs a little.
So am I happy about our move? Sure I am. I know to a lot of people in our local body this is a real big deal. And I know a lot of people put a lot of work into it. Some men worked at our church more than most people on fulltime jobs. And I know there’s families in our church who’ve put their gift to our church in a plate every week for over 1500 weeks now to pay for the building I will now enjoy. I know it will be more comfortable and inviting to guests, and we should be able to do more of our ministry with the extra space. But one other thing I know for sure is that if a tornado blew through between now and Sunday and took it all away, I’d be there, and I’d expect the rest of my church family to be there praising the Lord Sunday, celebrating the glorious resurrection of Christ. Not looking for colored eggs or bunnies, but focusing on Christ’s triumph over death and sin, once and for all.
But the real reason I wanted to write this note was not about buildings, and certainly not my feelings about buildings. This note is about the same thing that Jesus was about in his earthly ministry, the same thing he left Peter to “be about,” and what I hope I am “about,” PEOPLE. Tonight I was blessed to serve with 40-50 people who I think I don’t deserve to be around. I was there a little early with my wife and oldest daughter. I really wanted to get a head start on the work to be done because I felt there was a lot and we didn’t have much time and I thought I could move some chairs before anyone got there. This is not really a credit to me, the fact is I work better alone because I like to do things my own way because I’m immature…it just so happens it worked out tonight to be helpful to people I think. But at one point I looked at my wife who had just cleaned the whole church. I was finishing moving the final chairs and my daughter had moved all the hymnals and chorus books. I looked at her and said, “Do you believe we get to do this?” All I could think of was the efforts I’d made to disgrace the name of Jesus in my life. The constant thievery of my youth…how many Christians had I stolen from that may have prayed for my salvation? I couldn’t believe that God in His Grace had chosen me for this service tonight. Then the people showed up. We ate pizza and breadsticks and talked and laughed and worked hard together. Every few minutes, people would be stopped standing around a little, chatting about life, work, the church or the Lord. We enjoyed the “new building smell,” which I suppose will last as long as new car smell does. In a few weeks, we won’t even remember it probably.
I don’t feel like there’s much of a point to this right now. Sometimes I ramble. But I love these people so much I just wanted to share that with you, my reader. Maybe you are one of my church family already. Maybe you will be someday! =^) Maybe never.
Either way, I want you to be able to sense my respect for my brothers and sisters, my love for their kids and their souls and my desire to see them grow closer to God, every day. My trust that they’d take care of my family if needed. My hope that I’d be willing to do the same if called upon. I hope the men there know that I am watching them. I watch the way they treat their wives and their kids and I learn. I watch the way my pastor preaches and teaches and wish to someday be like that, to love Jesus as much.
24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)