If you were to ask me about my upbringing, I would gladly tell you that I was raised by a village. Yes I had a mom and a dad that "raised me," but I have also been in the midst of a loving church family for about 20 years now. This group of people that I met in my church attributes so much to my life, as they did from the beginning.
This family has grown and shrunk over the years, changed, morphed, even developed some satellites, meaning that I have met people through other churches that have been added to what I call my family.
Every day I am grateful that I have a church I can go to and christian friends who gladly take me in when I am in need of help or encouragement, as well as the chance I get to offer the same to each and every one of them. Today I thought a lot about the "institution" that is church today. Sadly, there are places out there that are called churches but are not full of the same love and family that I have experienced in my life.
But there are so many people who have had a bad experience in a church, that now they are scarred and resentful. They don't believe that such a family exist. Just like people will use the example of one person to credit characteristics to an entire group, all church have been written off as the same.
I am sad for those people. Truly. Because I have never been blessed by anything more than the family that God has granted me, mostly through church. God has literally filled so many gaps in my life through church. I may have lost a lot of people over the years, but I do not view myself today as lacking in anyway.
Through church, I have a woman I call momma. I have men who look out for in a way that would do my daddy justice (and I'm a daddy's girl. That's saying a lot.) I have more brothers and sisters than I could have ever asked for. And not one of them shares a drop of my blood, but I count them as close to me as the family that is 100% related to me. Note: not all of my "church family" go to the same church. In case you read this and feel excluded. :)
These musings draw me to the Bible to look at the example of the early church, designed by God's own design to serve God's purpose to his people. I began to read through Acts and I barely got past the first verse. Luke records that, in his first book, his gospel, he has "dealt with all that Jesus began to do and to teach." That's when I realized that the whole foundation and beginning of the church was Jesus. Well, obviously, that's not the first I have heard of such an idea.
But I began to look through the gospels for those examples that Jesus set in motion aspects of the church through which we are still blessed today. I will briefly outline some of my findings. Obviously I can't find every single occurrence in one day, but here are a few.
- Matthew 4:18-19 "While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.'" Jesus begins with these two disciples as his community. He selected people to spend all of his time with, day and night, for (what would be) the rest of his life. He accepted many people in to hear his teaching and receive his healing, but he also had a community of people he could go to at all times.
- Matthew 7:5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of brother's eye." In this, Jesus set up what is typically called accountability relationships. He doesn't say we should never judge each other, but rather, as two or more imperfect people, we should strive to live for God together. Be there to help en courage your brother toward what he knows to be right, but of course only if you are willing to receive the same treatment.
- Matthew 12:50 "For whoever does the will of Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Obviously I have already said my piece about the family I have gained through church.
- Matthew 18:15-17 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." Jesus gives us instructions on how to maintain our healthy relationships with fellow believers. He outlines the way for us to have peace among each other.
- Matthew 28:19-20 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Jesus gave us purpose, towards which we strive together.
- Luke 22:19 "...Do this in remembrance of me." When Jesus had the last supper with his disciples, he set a way for us to fellowship together and to remember why it is we do what we do. Our purpose is to live for the Savior who DIED for us. Gave his body and blood. This reminds of the monuments that the Israelites would set up in the Old Testament, to remember what God had done for them. Such monuments were set up, for example, after the crossings of the Red Sea and the Jordan river, to remind later generation and allow them to never forget what God had done.
- John 14:26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all I have said to you." Jesus left us with the power of understanding. the gospel is our power. This can be seen so many times throughout the book of Act, especially. Some Bibles will title that book "The Acts of the Apostles." I prefer to scratch that out and replace it with "The Acts of the Holy Spirit."
All of these are things that Christ left us through example, and for each pf them and more I am thankful. I love my chrisitan friends, my church family.
What are you thankful for when you walk into the presence of your church family? How has God used his people to bless you?