It is a beautiful morning as I sit to type this. Soon, I am aiming to go for a swim up in the lake near where we live.
The other evening I was up there when it was sunset (the photo above is from the bridge over to the island where the lake can be reached by foot or bike). I love being out in nature – I find it refreshing and enjoyable. I might even say I am quite passionate about it.
As I walked back I was thinking on something else I have passion about – local church. In particular I was thinking about ICL’s core value of being ‘family’ and how even that day I had heard of great examples of people within the congregation, really looking out for one another. It brought a smile to my face and a prayer of gratitude.
Being ‘family’ as a church does not have to be anything bizarre or cult-like. Nor does it mean replacing the importance of our actual families through birth and/or marriage.
But ‘family’ is a wonderful aspect of being church. Note ‘being church’, not going to church! It is possible to go to a church service or other activities as expressions of being church. It is impossible to go to church! So stop trying!
Am I simply playing with words here? I don’t think so. When we use vocabulary of ‘going to church’, we can end up boxing it up as another activity of life. Rather ‘being church’ is an expression together, of our lives being centred around Jesus Christ and His transforming love among us (and for others outside of the church too of course!). Matthew in his Gospel records Jesus’ words, “I will build my church…” Clearly church (His family) is something He considers important. Do we?
That family, even amid the troubles in this world, keeps growing – in all continents and cultures. People encountering the good news of the kingdom of God through Christ.
Sadly at times, His family seems divided. It is crazy how many different denominations there are in the world! Though I am not pointing the finger at anyone for being part of a denomination – ICL is part of one! It does strike me as tragic though that there is seemingly lots of fragmentation that could be avoided.
Let’ s do what we can to pray and work for unity among His family. If you are part of ICL, seek to actively embrace that we are one part of Christ’s church in the Leiden area. Let’s speak well of other believers and congregations. Sure there may be things we disagree with, these do not have to necessarily be ignored. But let’s always check our hearts with this. This is His church we are speaking about!
All families of course are made up of imperfect people. We all need the Lord’s grace and truth and to recognise that though we follow One who is perfect, we are not! Church as family takes working at. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 about the church as a ‘body’. He writes of the interdependence of different parts of a human body and then likens the church to this – we need each other. The idea of the ‘loner Christian’ who does not need to be actively growing with other believers is not a Biblical image.
When Christians gather on a Sunday for example or in a small group during the week, they come to worship the Lord together, to seek to hear Him together, to encourage one another, to pray together, to remember together what Christ did on the cross, to share in the journey with one another. Together! With one another!
To continue to engage of course with life, work, study, home. That will probably not be altogether! (can you imagine us all coming along with you to your work, study place or neighbourhood every day!!) But even when we are walking out the things we are individually doing, we do not cease being part of His family.
How during the week; could you encourage others in their walk with Christ amid the stuff of life?
I finish here with some words from Hebrews 10:23-25:
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (New International Version)
Why not take some time to reflect on those verses and see what the Lord might show you about being ‘family’ as a church.
I’m off for that swim I mentioned!