Effingham Newsletter: March
Scripture is clear that the Christian life is one of both dependence on God and interdependence with each other. We're called the "Body of Christ" (Romans 7:4), and compared to many branches along a single vine (John 15:5). Even though we each have an individual relationship with Christ, it's implicit in God's Word that we carry out that relationship side-by-side with other believers. Early Christians met in each others' homes or in small groups. Those that still had ties to their Jewish heritage also met in the Temple. Christians in the US meet in churches every week-- some 350,000 different communities of faith. Over 65 million adults worship together and 135 million claim some kind of church affiliation.
I'm not away many Sundays since I'm a pastor, but when I am I can tell a difference the rest of the week. When I'm at church, I get asked questions that challenge me and share in fellowship that encourages me--I know I'm not alone in this world. Most importantly, I worship the God who created me and sustains me.
Whether you're a "once-in-a-while" or an "every-time-the-doors-open" kind of church goer, the group of folks who meet at your local church should make a difference in the life of your community. N. Ammerman writes, "By the very presence of their buildings, their steeples, and stained glass, [Churches] call beyond themselves... congregations not only transmit knowledge of the faith tradition and its meaning for contemporary life but also transmit values that promote community solidarity and continuity.... Thus, congregations have significance not only for the individuals who belong to them but also for the society beyond their membership."
Imperfect people fill our churches, so we mess up just as often as we get things right. Sometimes our influence in the community is negative--when a church splits or leadership stumbles it can make quite a ripple. But just as often, the Church gets it right. In the last few months, our church family has helped needy folks in Florence, supported a hospital in Haiti, celebrated with a first-time mother, supplied a few newlyweds, comforted families in mourning, and given its members a chance for hope and joy each week. Our church allows us to contribute to our world in a way we could never do on our own. Our church contributes to our lives in ways that we'd never experience alone. The Christian life is a journey meant to be shared with one another, and we join in on that journey through the local church.