Hi, Rob here. I’m the pastor of a mid-sized, evangelical church here in Hamilton, New Zealand. We love Jesus, care for people, preach the word and enjoy a really good laugh. We’ve done some great things, some dumb things and a lot of very ordinary things. We have serious over-achievers, a few under-achievers and many who are just doing their best. Our oldest member is 97 and our youngest is just a few days old. We look like the United Nations these days with many ethnicities represented in our services. Our youth get involved and take their faith seriously, our children are delightful, our elderly support each other and pray constantly and our volunteers are faithful and committed. We are typical, yet extraordinary. We have a lot to learn but we already have so much. We are a church of Jesus Christ. We are part of his body learning to be better connected to the Head.
Paul says this about the church in 1 Corinthians 12:24-27,
“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ’s body – that’s who you are! You must never forget this.”
The problem is that we seem to forget it all the time. I do, and I’m a pastor! What I forget is that being connected into my church community is an essential part of growing my relationship with Jesus. If the church is the body of Christ and I’m ignoring the body, then it follows that I’m not getting to know Jesus very well. God has designed things so that we grow closer to him by looking to him and to each other. Paul notes, “For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. (1 Corinthians 12:18-21)”
I do grow through solitude and silence, scripture and alone prayer, but life isn’t meant to be lived alone. We’re asked to love God and each other, so our spiritual practices need to help grow us in how we relate to other people. Church is not primarily a Sunday morning experience, but a community supporting each other in Christ-like living every day of the week. No church, including the one I pastor, does this perfectly. In fact, church can often be a place of serious wounding and constant frustration, but it can also be a place of healing, joy and freedom.
Jesus thinks very highly of his church; his body and his bride. Do we think highly of it too? Jesus wants to heal our relationship with the church. He wants us to love her as he loves her. He wants us to contribute to the body’s health and well-being. He wants to heal the virus of division and the infection of resentment. He doesn’t want to see us isolated. Where are you at with the church today? Have you found a community where you experience the love and care of Christ? Are you challenged and stretched as well as comforted and nurtured? Is it free from manipulation and all forms of spiritual abuse? Is there the good intention to know God as deeply as possible? Is the Spirit welcome? Are your questions able to be asked freely? Bring your relationship with the church to Jesus. Let him lead you and restore you. He may ask you to stay, and he may ask you to go. Just walk with him and allow some close others into your journey.
God Bless you.