Sing praises to the Lord which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. Psalm 9:11
Church. What does it mean to go to church these days? I talk to people almost every day about this. Some go once in a while, some go every week and some never go. I have had some people say to me, “you don’t have to go to church to believe in God.” I think those people offer that information about themselves because they are trying to justify why they don’t go to church. I have been reading various articles lately about church attendance in today’s churches across America. And more than a few articles suggest that church attendance is down dramatically in almost every denomination nationwide.
Someone asked me, a few weeks ago, why I went to such a small church. They suggested that I go to a bigger church where they had a single’s ministry. They thought it would be good for me to meet other singles make new friends and get involved in activities. I smiled politely and told them I believed it was God’s will for me to be at this church until He moved me otherwise. It would have taken too long to explain how I came to believe that but the question got me to thinking about the last year I have been at this church.
Seeking God for direction as to where I should attend church was not easy, by no means. There were a lot of external circumstances in my life that seemed to cloud the many reasons for going to this church. It was a brand new church, starting from scratch. No building, no programs, no concrete plans for the future and a handful of people saying they would commit to this ministry, in this area, at this time. The one thing that was certain was that in order to build this ministry it would take people with hearts to stay in it for the long haul, to have great faith when it seemed all up hill and a love for others that would sustain the unity of the group beyond trials and tribulations.
When I made the decision to go and visit for the first time over a year ago I could feel the energy and excitement among most of the people, but more than that my heart was stirred for a ministry that would have to go against many odds to find its place in a community that perhaps would not even care that it existed. I could see a vision for this church. I could see strength and loyalty to the commitment in some. But for the life of me I could not understand how God would bring it all together with all the diversity of the people involved and what He would have to allow into the lives of each committed member to prepare a church for what He wanted to do in and through it.
I knew before the end of service God was leading me to join with this group and all the reasons became very clear. The clarity of it came through Romans 12. Romans 12 has always been a very important and personal chapter to me in my Christian walk. As a new Christian it was one of the few chapters I had memorized. Some of the verses were hard to live by; being a young Christian with so much of the world still in me, but it served me well as I learned to apply the principals to my life. I had been led to revisit the chapter on my own in morning devotions for almost a month before visiting the church. So it was no surprise but a delight when the pastor started his first series in the newly formed body on Romans 12. That was how I knew that God was speaking to my heart about my decision. It was confirmation through His word. The delight came from knowing that God used those very words that had so been written on my heart in the first place.
I have not spoken out loud to all of these things that God has shown me this past year until now, mostly because I hadn’t taken the time to evaluate what He has done in my heart at this little church. But I would like to state them now. I was inspired by a passage that was in a message this morning in
Psalm 9:11 Sing praises to the Lord which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.
This church has definitely given me a purpose beyond myself. I made up mind many years ago to serve the way the Lord commands me to serve, submitting one to another even as unto the Lord. Everything I do and every intention is to serve others and in that I serve God. I do not boast about this because this lesson about serving others came at a very dear price. To serve for my own selfish reasons would bring only frustration and misery in doing what should otherwise bring joy. And it has been great joy to do exactly what God has gifted me to do.
The second thing that the Lord has done in my heart is that He has brought me to a place of surrender in what I want for my personal life. This goes back to what started this conversation in the first place. Becoming a single divorced woman has been one of the most difficult obstacles I have had to face again in my life. If I had to say what is hardest thing I have had to give to God it would have to be this current station. While going to a church that has a singles group with activities might seem to be a good option, I believe, personally it would not serve the purpose of keeping my eyes on Him and His purpose for my life. It would probably keep me busy, entertained and maybe socially booked up. But how does that serve God in my life? How would that glorify him? Don’t misunderstand me, I do believe God wants me to have a full and happy life but not at the expense of an empty soul.
Another thing the Lord has done in my heart, at this church, is to develop my trust and intimacy with Him and Him alone. Regardless of the size of church you go to, besides worshiping the Lord, a reason one should go to church is to be spiritually fed through the messages, bible study, song and fellowship. In a larger church you might have a myriad of things to attend but that does not necessarily mean you will be drawn into a deeper more intimate relationship with God and others. In attending this church through serving and faithfulness I have experienced this intimacy. To be intimate with others is to be vulnerable and takes trust. This is far easier with God than others but it has been fulfilling and a blessing to be able to share my heart and my life with those that God has brought together.
In a smaller church, in the beginning, it takes time to build up relationships, to get to know one another on a deep personal level. Building these relationships is a very important part of building up unity in the church. I have learned that the one thing that gets in the way of building this unity is pride. Pride says ‘I will not!’ If we apply pride to Romans 12:9-16 then we become the opposite of what God wills for us. Instead of ‘in honour preferring one another’ we decide not to forgive another their offense we stay indignant or bitter. Instead of ‘being of the same mind one toward another’ we want our own way or to be right. Since there are few in numbers I am more keenly aware of how I treat everyone that comes through our doors and am more readily able to forgive their trespasses. I do not want to be responsible for turning another away from the ministry or God.
This trust and intimacy in God comes through realizing that God is sovereign in who comes and goes in our church. While the people who came for whatever reason and have left for whatever reason does so at God’s sovereignty. I know He gives each and every one of us the free will to make choices and those choices do not always honor God, in the end He can and will work all of the good and bad choices and events into something good. I can completely trust Him and can count on Him to be a constant when people come and go in the ministry.
Last but not least I have found that because my church is small that I can pray for each one by name. And because I have spent time talking with, praying with and worshiping with the people God has chosen to bring together, God gives me specific things to pray for them. This in and of itself is an unbelievable way to be connected and invested in another’s life. The power of prayer cannot be underestimated in a start up ministry such as this. I believe without prayer there is no power. And it is the Holy Spirit power that brings growth and strength to this ministry.
I know that to some it seems our ministry may not be growing fast enough or we should be farther along than we are. But in God’s time I think we are where we are suppose to be. I believe He is preparing us by teaching us, as a core group, to love one another through the waiting and praying. To become unified so that we can stand when the waves come in…the waves of souls that come through the door seeking God. How can we love others we do not know if we can’t love those that we do know?
I am so glad I listened to God a year ago. I am grateful that I obeyed Him. And further more I am excited to see where God takes this ministry, with the people He has seen fit to put together in a room. I see in these folks the steady desire to reach lost souls, the strength of commitment to one another and loyalty to God who is on the throne. The question ‘why do I go to a small church’ was a good one because it gave me the opportunity to look back and see the great and mighty things God has done in my heart and life through this small church!!!
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.
For I say , through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
For as we have many members in on body and all members have not the same office: So we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Grace to you