“Forsake not the gathering of the saints…” (Hebrews 10:25)
I have been part of a church community all my life. My father accepted the call to ministry when he was a teenager and was pastoring a small church in rural Mississippi by the time he was barely more than 20. He was just turning 22 when I was born. To say that I “grew up in church” might sound a bit dramatic, but it is literally the truth.
The spiritual family has always been a real experience for me. A cross-cultural, cross-generational melting pot of humanity in all the wonder and chaos of diversity that the human race represents. As a child and young teenager, I often gave up my bedroom for the passing missionary, shared a bathroom with various young women on layover between leaving home and finding an apartment, set extra places at our large round kitchen table for a variety of friends, both old and new. I’m still a little surprised to look back and remember how lonely the house felt when it was “just us and no extras.” I say, “surprised,” because I think it might not be common for teenagers to be not only willing but happy to give up privacy for the benefit of getting to know a stranger or for the satisfaction of sitting on the floor listening to the adults talk about life and Jesus and genuinely enjoying being together.
Community is not just important to me, it is vital. I came into this world in the middle of a story that started long before I was even a thought, and strange as it sounds, that has somehow always been a comfort to me. It didn’t start with me, and it won’t end with me. I’m smack in the middle of something big and awesome and, yes, holy: the Lord’s Church.
No matter what the world tells us about the health of the Church, the truth is the Kingdom of God is advancing. Isaiah 9:7 says, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” (NASB)
Yesterday, the women in our church gathered in the morning for worship, the reading of the Word, exhortation, Communion, and prayer. This fellowship around the Lord’s table with women of all ages and stages of life was rich, precious, and breathtakingly real. In this hot house of exotic blooms (forgive my sense of poetry), the fragrance of the knowledge of Him was veritably intoxicating. How could I not want to know Him more, love Him more, and follow Him more closely, when I see others who are being transformed by the power of His love?
Hebrews 10:23-25 goes like this: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” There is a direct correlation between the gathering of saints who encourage one another and the outworking of faith, hope, and love among those saints. And I have glimpsed the truth of this glorious mystery. That is, the work of the Holy Spirit to build the Lord’s Church…as He gathers them together.
O, my Lord! How great Thou art! You are worthy of all our praise, and I will praise You for who You are. You are King of all kings and Lord of all lords, and Your throne endures forever. Thank you for adopting me into Your family and for calling me into Your Kingdom. Cause me to love well and to perform good works of stewardship in the relationships You ordain for me. Be lifted up among us. Draw men to Yourself. Be glorified. In Jesus’ name, amen.
As you enter this week, do so with intention to recognize any “gathering” as one ordained by God. Jesus said, “Wherever two or more are gathered in My name, there I am also.” (Matthew 18:20) Respond to His invitation to benefit from the encouragement and challenge of other lives being lived out in Christ.
Until next week, keep living in the hope of your calling.