Learning to Love the Church
I was raised in a Christian family and in a local church from the time I was born. I cannot remember a time that I was not in church. To be sure, neither my family nor my home church were even close to perfect. As a matter of fact, my parents were trying to figure out true faith and the Christian life as they were raising my brothers and me. I was actually old enough to remember the day that they were both baptized. So, I don’t come from a great family tree of mature and bold Christians, much less some generational ministry line. I am the first and only minister in our family, as best I know.
Our home church was small and simple. The teaching was biblical, but it was also shallow. The leadership was weak, and the congregation was spiritually immature. However, there was a family atmosphere. We lived life together; we spent all day every Sunday together and every Wednesday too. We went on camping trips in the mountains and beach trips as a whole church. We volunteered in the community and served one another too. I did not grow up in a “youth group” per se. There was not an overwhelming number of kids my age in the church. The ones who were around my age kind of floated in and out. The adults in the church, however, really gave me attention. They included me in things from a very early age. I was serving at the Lord’s Table, preparing Communion meditations, praying publicly, and reading Scripture in the assembly from the time I was young. These things had a huge impact on my Christian life, maturity, and growing love for the church. I felt a lot like Joshua during the days of Moses. The Scripture says in Exodus 33, for example, that Moses and Joshua would go to the tabernacle together, Moses would speak with God and then leave, but Joshua, a young man, would not depart from the tabernacle. He wanted to be near the Lord; he wanted to stay close to that holy place. I was the same way as a young man. I loved the church, the building and the people.
There were many problems in our home church, though. And there were some very hurtful things said about my family and even me. I’ve never been hurt by the world as much as I have by the church (my home church and churches I have worked with). There came a breaking point, and forty people left the church to start another congregation on the other side of the county (I had just graduated high school). We thought that was the best decision to make. We were all tired of bickering and fighting and backbiting.
I say all of this to make an important point: While I have had lots of reasons to be bitter about the church and to be mad and to be pessimistic, the Lord has always kept a hopeful spirit within me. I have always believed that there is hope for each and every local congregation. A church can be nursed back to health, nurtured, taught, shepherded, etc. A church can actually be united and healthy and relatively mature. The church can be a group of people marked by love and grace and humility. To this day, I love the church, and I especially love the Rural Hall Church. Yes, I know, the Rural Hall Christian Church belongs to the Lord, BUT, this is also my church, in the sense that I belong to you and you belong to me. You are my people. I pledge my allegiance to the Lord, and I pledge my allegiance to you. Let me encourage you to let your love for the church flourish! Let the Lord give you a bright and hopeful spirit for the future of the church, both globally and right here in Rural Hall.