Kingdom Life, Church Hopping and Grace
Years ago I heard a short radio spot on John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”, the point being that authentic relationships among believers are the greatest evangelistic tool of all. I would also add, they are the greatest tools for maturing in faith.
It’s vital to build a firm foundation in God’s Word if you want to be a disciple. God’s worldview is the only one that matters. The way this worldview is fleshed out by disciples is in the community of the church, painting a picture of kingdom life. In my 40-plus years as a believer, I’ve seen some great examples of supernatural community.
But sadly, I’ve seen other examples of believers who walk away from community when things aren’t to their liking, just like those in the world who have neither the Spirit of Christ nor the hope of the gospel. Pick a reason:
- the style of music doesn’t minister to me,
- people here are hypocrites,
- the preaching is shallow/above my head,
- the children’s/teen’s program doesn’t meet the needs of my children,
- the church isn’t doing enough/is doing too much to help the poor,
- we are spending too much/not enough on missions, etc.
One of the most common reasons I’ve heard is, “God told me to leave this church”. This step is usually taken without much, if any, counsel from godly and wise brothers and sisters. I confess, this is the one that irritates me most because who can argue with God telling someone something? It shuts down any possibility of coming together to talk it out. But it also denies the usefulness of the community, Body of Christ itself.
To remain in community and bear with one another, forgive one another, not hold grudges, not sow seeds of discord, etc. is a mark of maturing faith. The impulse to shrug your shoulders and say ‘this isn’t worth it to me’ or ‘I don’t have time for this’ isn’t the Lord’s heart for his church.
What if we chose to commit to our church in much the same way a wedding vow is made? “I, Pam, take you First Presbyterian Church, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.” The choice to give committed love for one another releases the power of the Holy Spirit, building a supernatural church and a powerful witness to the world. It is what the world longs to see and be part of.
Jesus, in his final prayer before his passion, prayed for the oneness of his church. His heart ached for his followers to commit to live in authentic oneness. He knew that the church’s survival depended on the effective witness of a church that was an earthly reflection of the oneness he enjoyed with his Father and the Holy Spirit. This is his call to every church, to place a high value on protecting, cherishing, building, and sustaining the community of faith.
The author, Pam Bush is the Director of Congregational Life at First Presbyterian Church, Reading, PA and one of the women I admire most in all the world.