It started as the Summer of Theology. A couple guys, united by their disillusionment with church and wanting to do something a little better, decided to meet and see if they could be like-minded enough to proceed with a new church.
What they did not want was some kind of 'wherever believers are gathered, there is a church' twaddle. True, the Church is the people. But church is not you and your friends sharing dinner and a nice bottle of Merlot and talking about kingdom things. No. It's not. Church is only functioning as the Bible tells us it should function where there is preaching of the Word, the sacraments of baptism and communion, corporate worship, and discipline. The dinner and the Merlot can happen as a part of that. But simply calling our gathering church does not make it so.
We also didn't want to segregate ourselves into age sectors.
That's the stuff of government education, not the fellowship of the saints. There's one very, very large church in our town with multiple spin-offs where the ushers literally meet you at the door and tell you where to take your kids.
As in, no, your children are not welcome to worship with you in the Big Sanctuary.
Just like Heaven.
So much for suffer the little children...
Back to that summer...No one really had time to do this thing. After all, each of these men was employed somewhere else. No one was looking to take on more responsibility.
But...no one wanted to shirk their responsibility to their families, either.
That was ten years ago. My husband was one of those men.
And, oh boy, has my appreciation of church grown over this past decade.
The preaching is expository. Starting with scripture and finding God's truth, rather than starting with a topic and attempting to prove it with scripture, has been a meaty experience for me. Jesus and His gospel are everywhere! I am thankful for expository preaching.
Just because the Bible condemns lust does not mean Christians should not keep women in our homes. But churches take 'official church positions' like this all the time. The problem is that we often turn the crank farther than God does. We put burdens on people because our own consciences are weak--I caught myself doing this very thing last spring--and we call it the High Road. Before you know it, anyone who holds any position in the church has to sign something, vow something, abstain from something, yadda yadda yadda. It's good to put some distance between us and the Pharisees, nu? I'm thankful for a church that is careful to distinguish probable implications of scripture from merely possible implications.
What we sing to God should be as theologically robust as what we hear from the pulpit. I am thankful for elders and a worship team who carefully select our songs. (We've tossed songs by famous people because the theology was not sound.) And they regularly review our sets to make sure that the words we sing to God in the congregation of God's people are Truth. I am thankful for worshipping in Truth.
We have covenanted together. We are family. We feast. We fellowship. We do retreats. And before communion is offered, we have time to get things straight with each other because we sin against each other, too. Brett tells me that it is powerful to stand up front on Communion Sundays and watch people quietly working things out with each other before we come to the Lord's Table. I am thankful for a church that encourages relating rightly to one another.
We are a varied bunch. We have different backgrounds, different testamonies, different convictions. Calvinist. Arminian. Undecided. Covenantal. Dispensational. Paedobaptist. Credopbaptist. Undecided. Television. Alcohol. Halloween. Christmas. Undecided. Firm convictions; no convictions. Weak consciences; strong consciences. We are a local Body learning what hard work it is to not trample each other's consciences and likewise to not trample each other's freedom. I'm thankful for a church willing to be gracious.
In essentails, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity. (Rupertus Meldenius)
To which Henri Blocher adds:
In matters secondary or subtle, a gracious attention combined with exactness.
I'd say that describes us pretty well.
We celebrated our first ten years with a feast last Friday. One of my sweet friends told me, "Wow. Ten years ago, I wasn't even saved." This is the same woman who just finished reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology!
This is the local Body God has been quietly building since that Summer of Theology ten years ago.
They are robust. They are hungry. They are godly.
And this is the Body I am so privileged to be a part of.
They are longsuffering with my flaws.
They laugh with me on my good days and cry with me on my bad days.
They pray for me, confide in me, model goodness for me.
That's my church.
Let's walk together.