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Where Everybody Knows Your Name
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By David B. Smith

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iBelieve: God's Incubator of Hope | PDF Version Study Guide: The Church

 

There’s a cute story where some tourists come across a diminutive native hunter standing triumphantly over the carcass of a lion. “That’s very impressive,” they gush. “How did you kill such a ferocious beast?” “I did it with my club,” the man replies. Seeing nothing in the hunter’s hand, one asks: “And how big is your club?” He smiles cheerfully. “There are about a hundred of us.”

Great things happen when we form ourselves into a dynamic group with a common goal! And this is the miracle of the Christian Church.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God’s people gather together and form a growing, accountable body of believers known as ekklesia, “a calling out.” It was John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, who said: “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.” Instead, everyone who serves Jesus Christ is called to coalesce into a local body, a congregation — part of the global, invisible Church.

The Church serves many purposes; its paramount calling is to be a powerful missionary force to take the gospel message to the entire world and bring people into fellowship with Jesus (Matthew 28:19, 20). It’s also intended to be an agent of blessing and societal transformation: feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, providing shelter to the lonely, instructing lost souls who need help, giving unselfish aid to people ravaged by natural disasters.

The Bible’s many colorful metaphors give us a clear picture of what God intends to do through His Church. The Church is a temple — and God dwells in it through the ministration of the Holy Spirit. It is Christ’s bride (Ephesians 5:27), a beautiful, dedicated, and loyal partner committed for eternity. The Church is fiercely committed to Jesus and His passion for a lost world; it strives to be perfect and beautiful and attractive to an onlooking world. The Church is a body with many parts. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free (1 Corinthians 12:13). Each person in the organization has a God-given spiritual gift to use for the blessing of the entire family. There is unity of purpose; members and individual congregation consider the needs of the rest of the body, how others will be impacted by their lifestyle or decisions.  

It’s important to accept that the Church is built on Jesus and His truth, and that we accept Him as our undisputed King and Ruler. His Words bind us — and this is good news! The Church is governed by the plain teachings of Scripture, which have authority over the lives of each member. While every person in a Church is encouraged to study and grow and think for themselves, there is also a point where members submit to the collective, God-ordained wisdom that comes from humble Christians studying together to form a safe doctrinal framework for healthy spiritual living.

I’ve always appreciated the story of Watergate co-conspirator Chuck Colson, who accepted Jesus during the height of a political scandal. Harold Hughes, a blunt, steely-eyed Democratic senator, was definitely an “enemy” to the Nixon loyalist who had fallen into legal troubles. His natural inclination was to despise Colson, to toss him in jail and throw away the key. But the moment Hughes heard Colson’s testimony and how he had surrendered his life to the Savior they now both loved, he embraced Colson. “You’re my brother now,” he said. “I’ll do anything I can for you, bear any burden, share any load.” As a brother in a common family, he spent years mentoring Colson into becoming a powerful Christian witness. And why did Hughes overcome his natural enmity? Because the Jesus of Christianity called him to do so.

Consider that the Church provides individuals with a fellowship we could never find on our own. We gather together to sing hymns with a gusto we could not manage in our own backyard. We fund mission ventures that are beyond the scope of any one believer. The synergy of corporate worship is a unique blessing, and the Bible writers exhort us to never abandon the necessary discipline and joy of assembling together (Hebrews 10:25). Churches also have a divinely ordained framework where elders and deacons serve one another and have leadership roles defined and chosen by God Himself.

I’ll never forget a sermon by Gordon Bietz where he quietly began to share an “altar call” many of us had heard weekly on Thursday nights. “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got,” he said kindly. “Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.” Most in the congregation were already mentally humming a certain sitcom theme song as he went on. “Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.” Then he added, “You know, people shouldn’t have to go to a bar to be where loving people embrace them and demonstrate their love. It shouldn’t take beer and wine to make us friendly enough to cry out: ‘Norm! So good to see you!’ No, that place of healing and hope should be the Church.”
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David B. Smith writes from California. (12 of 28)  His web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.