Thursday, July 16, 2015

Life Together

The forty to fifty children stared at me—they had no questions about the triumphal entry of Jesus. One of the women in the back raised her hand. “I have a question,” she said in French. “Can you tell me your testimony?”

I moved closer to her, joined by my translator. She began asking me a series of questions: What does the Church look like in America? What is the fellowship like among believers? Are churches like families? Do people who profess Christ love his bride? Do you all go door-to-door sharing the gospel?

I told her that the American Church is very large, and that I couldn't speak about it in whole. But I could tell her about my experience.

There are churches that look like families and there are churches that don't. There are churches who have all things in common and there are churches who have little in common. There are churches where people share the gospel and there are churches where people don't seem to know the gospel.

As in Abidjan, such is the reality of the Church in America.

She shared with me about her church—how believers who have food give to those who don't, how they split into groups after the sermon each week to discuss it, and how they are intentional about sharing the gospel with those who live nearby, holding one another accountable.

She didn't pretend that her church is perfect—no church is. But she did speak of how they are a family, a body, the called-out people of Christ.

I've been teaching Sunday School at her church each week, and I've seen how the people of the church do life together. I think there's something for us, believers in the American Church, to see, to learn from, and to be encouraged by.

The Church is the called-out people of God. It's not a building or a service. When Scripture talks of the Church, it uses the metaphors of a family, a body, and a bride, among others.

The Church is the bride for whom Christ secured salvation. Through his perfect obedience, his crucifixion, his death, and resurrection, he purchased a people for God “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

As the old hymn says,
From heaven He came and sought her.
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her

And for her life He died.

Like this church in Abidjan, let us press on to know the kind of community that the New Testament speaks of. If our church seems far from the picture of a family, a body, and a bride, let us think upon the words of pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.

With thanksgiving, let us receive the fellowship that God has called us to, all to the praise of his great and glorious grace.

Adapted from a story by Hannah