It’s been quite the summer.
I can’t recall another summer when I’ve worked so hard. We finished Art Camp a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing. Ninety kids, most from our neighborhood and not church members. VBS was amazing before that. So were the outreaches we’ve done this summer to our neighborhood and the Drake neighborhood. Everything has been great ; just busy. Finally, about 10 days ago, everything slowed down and I went on vacation.
I wasn’t at Zion this Sunday because I was “on vacation.” One of the cool things about being a preacher on vacation is that you can visit other churches and see what God is up to in other places. So, we visited another church instead. A church not too far from my house on the north side of our city. It isn’t quite yet a mega-church but it’s going to be soon.
It was a very pleasing experience. We were welcomed. They were having a community fair; a huge affair with every imaginable kid friendly appliance and food. The worship production was amazing. Spiritually, yes, I believe we worshipped the King of Kings. It was crowded. The preacher was very good. His words spoke the Word to my heart. In fact, the whole thing was so smooth, so organized, so well done, my wife turned to me as we were leaving and asked, “Do you ever think we should just quit and let other churches that are doing things well just take over?”
OK, I admit it. I’ve thought of that before myself. We always say, “There is only ONE church in this city, the church of Jesus Christ.” So why keep on doing what we’re doing. There are better preachers. There are slicker worship teams. There are churches with more resources doing more things in this city and around the world. There are churches with less baggage. Is it vanity that keeps us going? Do preachers just need jobs and so we need to have lots of churches? Is it that we just couldn’t fathom closing and merging with another congregation or two?
As I looked around the church where we were visiting, I saw signs of the grace of God. There were several mixed race couples (that’s one of my leading indicators about church health. Bi-racial couples sometimes have trouble finding a place to welcome them, but when they find a place, you know it’s a good place that welcomes everyone). There was representation from different races. There were young and old. There were people with different disabilities. While it was overwhelmingly caucasian, it did resemble the changing face of our community well.
They preached the Word and lifted up the name of Jesus. They were passionate that others should come and know the Lord.
They had just had a major event where they provided clothing for 300 needy people.
And so on. They were representing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords well.
So why not just merge with them? Doesn’t it make sense? What makes us unique?
I suppose the answer to that last question, “what makes us unique?” is the reason that in two weeks, I’ll be back to preaching and we’ll keep making mortgage payments on our building and we’ll keep meeting together to pray and worship and teach and serve.
Because the answer is, we are unique. We may not be slick or be the best. We may not have it all figured out. Our sermons may not be for everyone. But somehow, God is using us. And the uniqueness of our church is found in the stories of our people.
Stories like the man who was far from God but because he was loved by his small group who calls our church home, he came to faith in Jesus Christ.
Stories about a number of preachers who lost their churches and found a home and restoration through the ministry of our congregation.
Stories like the guy in our neighborhood converting to faith in Jesus from another religion because together, as Christians locally, we showed him the love of Christ.
Not every church can do everything well. And we shouldn’t expect them to. But each church has a unique role to play in the redemption of the world. Together, acting as a body, we accomplish far more than we think or imagine. Because each of our churches is part of the body of Christ. Some will be parts that have greater honor and more exposure and some will be less honored but no less important in the working of the body.