Read His Words Before Ours!
The Church is God’s people.
But it’s often misconstrued as an experience.
In truth, the Church cannot be confined to our experience or perspective. It is something larger than ourselves, in which we get to participate. We see this in Scripture, and I have had the blessing of learning it through experience. Therefore, I’d like to encourage us to live with zealous love for God by loving the Church, Christ’s bride.
A little back story, I grew up traveling. Our family lived in a trailer in the United States, going from church to church, doing old-school revivals. My parents helped churches reach the communities around them with the message of God’s love through Jesus. My “normal” was meeting new people every week, adapting to each church’s practices, and participating however I could.
Church wasn’t about me. Church was about sharing with others Who Jesus is.
Additionally, my dad pastored. We settled for a few years in Illinois and then Florida. In both settings, I entered into an environment where people had known each other their whole lives. As an outsider, I integrated into their programs and cultural norms. I went to Sunday school class, children’s church, and a mid-week mission class. For us kids, the main goal was to have fun while learning about the Bible.
Church wasn’t about me, but most of the time I thought it was.
Before I started high school, our family moved to West Africa as missionaries. My experience of church and its culture expanded dramatically. During school years, I attended a church comprised of more than 13 denominations and over 20 nationalities. During breaks, I attended Nigerian churches. I wore a wrapper (skirt) and head tie, sat on hard benches with the other females, listened to sermons in a language I didn’t speak, and hummed along with songs I didn’t understand.
Church wasn’t about me. Church was people relating to God, together.
Since then, I’ve gathered with believers on four continents and have worshipped in more languages than I can recall. I have met with God’s people in stadiums and under the stars. I have danced to the rhythm of homemade drums, stood still in the choral of magnificent pipe organs, and wept silently while listening to a man behind me praise the Lord in brokenness after the death of his son.
My experience of church has been broad. My experience of God’s people has been beyond description.
As we move into Scripture, it’s important to have a working definition of the word Church. In Greek, the word for church is ekklēsía, which means “people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church.” Often, in North America, people think of church as a weekly event, which is understandable. When God’s people assemble, the Church is gathered, so we can legitimately say we’re “having church.” God’s people are the Church and the gathering of His people is church.
Paul talks a lot about being the church in Ephesians.
He wrote, “God’s multifaceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavens. This is according to His eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:10-11)
Extraordinary! God’s age-long plan is to reveal His multifaceted wisdom through the Church.
You see, through His own blood, Christ redeemed us. (Titus 2:14)
He has cleansed our consciences from dead works to serve the living God
Now, He has given us His Spirit! (1 John 4:13)
How should we, the Church, respond to our God’s stunning mercy and love?
“Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we must also love one another.” (1 John 4:11)
Simply put, we are to love one another, because He has loved us, because His Spirit is in us, and because when we do, His love is perfected and fulfilled. (1 John 4:7-16)
This is why Paul implores the Church “to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
According to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, showing God’s love to one another means we are to be patient and kind. We should abandon arrogance, jealousy, and predetermined agendas. We are to forgive, bear with one another, rejoice with each other in truth, and to hope. Finally, we are to endure.
Notice, NOTHING in all of these verses talks about what we can expect to experience when we assemble together as the Church. Instead, every verse commissions the believer to live and love from the Spirit at work in her. This wildly unnatural, selfless love will be powerful witness to a lost world.
Sisters, do you hear Scripture’s call to both gather at church and BE the Church?
To commit to community with other believers?
To accept the responsibility to love and build up, according to the Spirit of grace at work within us?
The Church exists for a reason, and we get to be a part of it!
Grow well, my sisters.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!