The Commission of Christ’s Church – People Not Place - Wednesday, April 29th

The Commission of Christ’s Church – People Not Place - Wednesday, April 29th

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ …. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:18-20A, 22-23

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Today's thoughts from today's verses:

Thinking of “church” as a place is an easy thing to do. And yet most of us understand that church is people, redeemed and joined together under the Headship of Christ. We say that we are going to church but we really mean we are going to the place where the church (God’s people) meet. The reason for the shift to more of a focus on “people” than “place” is because of the change in focus when God replaced the old covenant with the new covenant. In the old covenant the focus was the temple along with the priesthood and the sacrificial system. These were all central to how God manifested His presence in the midst of His people. In the new covenant the focus is no longer on a place because through Christ, God now manifests His presence both within the heart and life of each individual believer and in their collective heart and life together.

We are the church and we share our lives together collectively in many ways including both the large group setting of Sunday morning and the small group settings of other times. While we know that the church is us and not the place we meet, the commonplace thinking of “church as a place” is something we have utilized well over the years and will continue to do so. New people showing up at the place we meet happens every week and what they experience while they are with us has everything to do with why we have grown from just a handful of people some 28 years ago to a large and thriving group of Christian disciples today. What people “experience” when they show up at the place we now call church truly makes all the difference and consistently evidences that Jesus Christ is doing far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. Understanding, embracing, and pursuing this approach more fully is a truly significant thing in the life of our church.

The story repeats itself week after week, year after year with our church; people come to our church whose hearts are ready for a “turning to God” experience. They are pleasantly surprised when they experience a worship environment that does not “make it difficult” with unnecessary and confusing religious trappings and practices. Their experience is very different from what they may have imagined it would be prior to arriving for the first time and the starting point is the all-important environment of “welcome” that they encounter right from the outset. Here is my take on how an environment of “welcome” is fostered and perpetuated: Christ wonderfully welcomes each of us as believers into beautiful fellowship with Himself and gradually the fullness of His love for us and the completeness of His acceptance of us is grasped and entered into. Our church has been committed to helping our people grasp and enter into the fullness of God’s love and acceptance. An environment of true welcome continues to be a significant part of the unexpected surprise new people experience when they join us on Sunday mornings because of the reality that our people are ones who more and more are experiencing God’s love and acceptance and are more and more overflowing with a Spirit of love and acceptance for others.

(Of course, our being a virtual church during these Covid-19 days, further diminishes the idea of “church as a place” and strengthens the idea of “church as a people.” How ironic that in our gathering together virtually with practically no gathering together in close physical proximity, people are still experiencing an environment of welcome rich with love and acceptance that helps them enter into the fullness of God’s love and acceptance in Christ)

Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

Lord, your love and acceptance of us in Christ is contagious. Thanks for helping us to put people above everything else just like you do. What a thrill to see the “welcome” of love and acceptance multiplying in amazing ways. May you continue to exalt yourself in our midst for your glory and for our good as your people. Amen!

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