For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19
I left the church a few Sundays ago in utter frustration. A wise friend of mine, seeing me frustrated a few years ago about something school related, gave me some great advice: don’t stand too close to the merry-go-round, otherwise you are going to keep getting hit. Indeed, I had been standing too close to an issue that I did not have control over and let my frustration smack me in the face every time something happened to fester the situation.
This is how I was feeling that Sunday. I was feeling that we were only hearing part of what God has been saying, that we were not assuming the best intentions of one another, and that we were listening only for things we like or don’t like. Needless to say, that is not how a church should operate.
Since God gave me the message to ‘nourish the root’, we’ve been dealing with some hard soil. Shortly after the split in 2015, I said to the elders that there are three things that could tear us apart: tension over how spiritual gifts should be expressed, financial struggles, and a lack of quantifiable church growth. Much of our recent conversation has been about the gifts, and I believe we are now mostly in agreement on the doctrine itself, and must now focus on how it is communicated. In terms of finances, the Lord continues to amaze me at how our situation is far better than our thoughts allow us, that through the faithfulness of giving and good stewardship He is sustaining us.
Quantifiable growth perhaps is the issue now that may be our stumbling block. The questions we will have to tackle over this latter half of the year are, “What is the purpose of outreach?” “What are our desired outcomes?”, and “What happens if we continue not to add more members?” Undoubtedly this will lead to some difficult, but necessary, conversations.
The key to our success in overcoming any barrier and being an effective minister for the Lord is community. As I watched our church come together to support our children in the Pinewood Derby and enjoy an ice cream social, a thought about community really hit me. We at FCFC are really good at being a social community, but not as a faith community. We are a collection of mature believers, but have not yet truly come together as one body to be rooted and grounded in love. Yet only then will we experience fullness of God within our church.
So let’s consider our church mission: to be the hands, the heart, and the mind of Christ. I think we’ve generally associated this mission with the work we are doing to promote Christ outside of the church. But perhaps we need instead to start looking inward. How can we be His hands, His heart, and His mind for one another? I believe this means that we must build a faith community that nourishes forgiveness and celebration, that reveals the unique value and vocation of each member, and that shines an outward light that generates from the inward bond we have in love and hope.
As you work through the queries and Jesus’ questions, take time reflect upon our faith community. May we value one another, celebrate Christ with one another, and love one another. May the church be the church.
-- Pastor Justin
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