Over the years that I’ve been a Christian, I’ve often wondered how to define ‘the Church.’ I’m not talking about a church building, which is fairly self-explanatory. I mean the Body of Christ or the Church described in the New Testament.
There was a time when I honestly thought it referred mainly to your fellow Christians within your local congregation. I also knew that the Church referred to Christians worldwide since the time of Christ. However, I sort of unconsciously drew the line when it came to Christians in other churches who were a bit closer to home. I had sort of an us-them mentality when it came to the myriad of other churches in my town. I knew there were other local Christians, but I didn’t necessarily see them as part of the Body that I was part of. I know it sounds silly, but the tendency is to see other local believers who worship elsewhere as either competition, or in error of some kind.
Within the past few years I’ve worked in leadership within our local church and have come to see some of the inner-workings of a church. Let me just say unequivocally that there are those within the church who do not function as members of the Body of Christ. For the longest time I couldn’t come to terms with this phenomenon. Why were there members within our church who acted in ways that tore it apart, who would not help where they saw that help was needed, who were so critical, etc? I’ll admit that I became very discouraged by what I saw as people who just didn’t care.
But in the midst of those who didn’t care, I also encountered people who did care. Some of them were within my own congregation, while others came from other churches. By participating in the youth group collaboration, I’ve come to meet some people who are 100% functioning within the same Body that I am. We don’t attend the same church, but there is a quick recognition that this person loves God, is following Him, and we are working toward a common goal. That’s the best way for me to explain it.
Within this context, I am having real conversations with people who care about me and what is going on with my family. I am working with others who do not have to be coerced into doing things (AMAZING!). I feel like I’m on a team. That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. As humans, we all bring our shortcomings to the table with us, but we exercise grace toward one another.
God has shown me that I need to stop being upset with those people who I think should be operating as the Church or Body of Christ, but aren’t. Instead, I need to look around for those who are yearning to follow His leading, and share what He is asking me to do. When we find others who are pressing forward to do the will of God, we find another member of the Church. This is someone you want to invest in, and they will invest in you also. This is someone to share life’s ups and downs with. Encourage one another as you both run the race that God has set before you. Your paths may diverge at some point, so enjoy the fellowship you have now and continue to pray for one another.
To me, the Church consists of the I-love-God, going for broke, Christ-followers all around me, no matter where they choose to attend services. When I start to feel discouraged or angry about those in the church who don’t care, I can just smile and think of the fellow Christ-loving (and following) believers God has dropped in my life unexpectedly. I am surrounded by a local Body of Believers–they just aren’t all located where I thought they would be. 😉