The church is a wonder. It is unique among all human relationships and associations. God rates the church above marriage, family, and government. “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world, the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence” (Ephesians 1:22, Message Bible). There are no higher claims made for anyone or anything in the Bible, with the exception of God. You are never closer to reality than when you are in contact with the church.
HEAVEN MEETS EARTH
The church is where heaven meets earth. It may not seem that way. Other institutions may impress us more. But there is nothing like the church.
Here are some other observations:
● First, the church exists to benefit its non-members, the people beyond its walls. Jesus calls it the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” That’s because we are light and salt for the sake of all the people of the world. There is no citizenship, entrance fee, or selective social status required.
● Secondly, church is not based on special knowledge or secret rituals. Its teachings and practices are all out in the open and have been for centuries. A young child can understand its purpose. The Bible, its foundational document, is the most known and published book in human history. It’s available in languages and places worldwide. Its founder, Jesus of Nazareth, is one of the best known people ever.
● Thirdly, church has been around a long time. It is time-tested. Its truths have been known and practiced for 2,000 years. It goes way back, yet it is always changing to reach the most diverse kinds of people on earth. The church has made a lot mistakes and has experienced significant failures along the way, but it also has a vast wisdom in dealing with human beings.
● Fourth, the church is diverse. It is worldwide and local. It includes more cultures, languages and ethnicities than any other association or institution on earth. Most local congregations are composed of several generations. More human beings and kinds of human beings follow Jesus Christ than any other religion or system of thought.
● Fifth, the church came from humble beginnings and still drawn most strongly to humble people and places. Even though the church worldwide owns billions of dollars’ worth of properties and investments, history has shown it flows away from places of power and money. Its influence is primarily in its ability to identify with people of every status, but especially the poor. It has strong appeal to those who have little resources.
● Sixth, the church combines the personal, emotional side of our lives with the big issues of society and life. From the smallest secret of our hearts to the ultimate purposes of reality, the church deals with it all.
OUR FAMILY’S TESTIMONIAL
For my family and me, we are indebted to the church. We Gaugs all came to know Jesus through the church. The kids were raised in two church families that truly did reach out to others. All of us Gaugs practiced the reality weekly that we serve Someone bigger than ourselves. The church sent us to places of need in the United States and overseas. The church taught us all to share our faith by word and action. The church taught us to take risks. The church showed us that those who believe in Jesus are very diverse racially, ethnically, and economically. The church has shown us to appreciate the differences.
Time and time again we were plunged into community situations of need and crisis -- labor controversies, racial discord, community conflicts, drug addiction, suicide, poverty, family tragedies, and personal crises -- because the church called us to help. We were all baptized and schooled in the church.
For Lynda and me the church taught us how to be married and how to deal with difficult situations. We learned to laugh and to cry in the church. The church taught us to love and to teach others to do so. The church enlarged and deepened our lives. It has kept us hopeful yet realistic. It has prevented us from confining our lives to a particular generation’s interests.
We have seen the beauty of people from all over the world through the church. The church has shown us that the gospel goes everywhere with effect. The church has taught us to be with people who are in pain. The church has made us more human. The church constantly challenges our prejudices and assumptions. The church has forced us to use our minds. The church has taught us grace and that we are always in over our heads.
For over six decades the church has been our lifelong family -- even when our personal families have aged and many of our loved ones have died. All of us are connected to lively congregations. Our grandchildren are deeply blessed to be part of a caring, loving, Jesus-oriented church family. What a life-filled, challenging environment to grow up in.
Like I said, the church is a wonder!