Tag Archives: church

“It’s No Secret: I Love the Church!”

I love the church! Not just (just?!) the church universal, that marvelous, amazing, and miraculous Body of Christ composed of all of God’s children, everyone who ever has or ever will wear Christ’s name, all the sons and daughters of God. Oh, I love “that” church, too.

But I also love the smaller local expressions of that Body, the little bands of disciples—all of them small indeed, whatever their size, compared to the grand Body from which they spring—working in thousands of thousands of places to share Christ’s love. I love the church.

Oh, I know, loving the church is not always fashionable. Many of my generation who were sentenced to too much time in the 60s and 70s decided that all “institutions” are suspect. Many others of later generations—different views and different areas of blindness—have decided that the church is not “relevant.” Not enough of a social service agency? Not (lock)step enough with the latest opinion polls? Oh, I do recognize some of the truth in the charge, but, still, I’m trying to understand how worshiping the One who gives us each breath could ever be anything other than intensely relevant to folks who enjoy breathing.

Some, also like me, grew up in “separatist” traditions or groups who tended to talk more about “the church”—meaning their little walled-off franchise of it—than they did about the Lord of the church. That sad mistake makes it easy to lose respect for the church as seen in the little all-too-human local expressions of Christ’s Body.

Yes, I know, when bad things happen in the church, the ugliness is even worse precisely because we know how beautiful the church can and should be. When a church gets caught up in power struggles disguised as pious piffle, dividing and walling itself off from the rest of the Body over molehills masquerading as mountains, prancing around like the old naked emperor parading “issues” that most sensible folks (in the church or outside it) recognize as no clothes at all, it looks really bad. It’s like a hairy wart on the nose of Miss America, or (and I could really cry a tear over this one) a cow patty dropped on top of a luscious cheesecake.

But, in spite of very real flaws, I still love the church. I’ve seen her beauty. I’ve felt her warmth and been embraced by her love, and the very best blessings of my life have been gifts from the Lord given through her hands.

I love the church, and I love the little church I’m a part of, and I hope you love “yours.” We’re family, you see. Over the years in this little group, I’ve seen walking through our doors and worshiping in our pews folks as diverse and deeply loved as a Cornell-educated F-16 pilot and his sweet law-student wife, a child just born weighing in at less than 4 lbs, a frail (though gigantic in the faith) little widow well into her 90s struggling to church every Sunday on a walker while so many younger and healthier folks slept in unaware that the blessing she claimed while they slumbered was worth more than gold.

I love the church! Vertically and horizontally, all because of a cross, she and her King have my heart.

 

 

   You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Advertisements

When Foundations Shift, Cracks Begin to Show

“Wow, I wonder how much farther that old sagging column supporting the corner of this old sagging house can lean out southward before the corner of the house just collapses and wordlessly pleads, ‘Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!’”

Nothing about that column is plumb, square, or level anymore, but I do notice some symmetry this morning. I’m writing my weekly Focus on Faith column weakly, sitting beside a weak porch column, and displaying at least some weak faith that this will not be the morning when that weak column collapses.

I don’t think the problem with that porch column started with the column. I’ve got my bag chair perched on the porch; if I look down, I see two things: 1) concrete, almost 90 years old, of an incredible quality no longer available; and, 2) in spite of the quality of the concrete, one big almost inch-wide crack bisecting the porch.

So the real problem is that the column is perched on the porch, the porch is concrete perched on a “stem-wall” foundation, and the foundation is shifting because the ground below it (drought-ravaged) started shifting first. Hence, that porch column leans, and even world-class concrete is defiled by a big crack.

When foundations become weak and begin shifting, much that we depend on to be sturdy begins to falter. We can no longer count on “plumb, square, and level.” Cracks that have been forming soon become too obvious to ignore. And, yes, eventually, columns tumble and what they have long supported crashes down.

We don’t have to look far in our society to see cracks becoming obvious. Look for their source and you’ll find foundations that are shifting and no longer able to support the weight they were designed to carry. Cracks. Crumbling. Collapse.

We’ve laughed at truth. I hear phrases like “your truth” and “my truth” which make about as much sense as “your gravity” and “my gravity.”

We’ve twisted real freedom, freedom to live a truly freeing, unselfish life of love that broadens our souls and blesses others, into the counterfeit “I’ve Gotta Be Me” no matter who I hurt.

We abandon foundational values as timeless and real as the multiplication tables (“your math” and “my math”?) and are surprised when what we build using false figures won’t stay standing. C. S. Lewis described the situation: “We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

If this old porch column is to go on bearing weight, my brothers and I are going to have to rebuild it on a firm footing.

And where can we find a foundation that will bear the weight of our lives so that our lives can be built not only to bless ourselves but to bless those around us?

May I suggest a walk down the street this Sunday morning? You’ll likely find a place where people meet to honor the Builder who set the foundation posts of this universe. As cracked and weak and crumbling as many of us who meet below them are, steeples still point in the right direction—to the One who is eternally faithful and strong.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Would You Speak About ‘Ministry Today’?”

 

ministry

“Would you be willing to speak briefly to my seminary students?”

In the weeks since one of my best friends and most capable colleagues made that request of me, along with eight or nine other ministers, a fine group whose quality I can only dilute, I’ve been pondering what to say about “Ministry Today.”

The first challenge is relatively minor. He said “brief.”

The second is that my only real qualification to give such a speech is that I feel incredibly unqualified to give such speech. That, by the way, will be one point: Never trust any minister who claims to know all about “doing” ministry.

I’m pretty sure that my task is more than simply to mention how many pastors in “ministry today” need anti-anxiety medication. I doubt my friend wants me just to discuss various pharmaceutical options.

One major point might be that ministry today brings with it some challenges somewhat unique, but that in most ways ministry today is hard because real ministry has always been hard on any day.

Still, as is historically true, prosperity brings challenges more threatening to deep faith than hard times and persecution ever bring. We “swim in a sea of selfishness.” The consumer religion approach—“Have It Your Way,” looking for the best value in “religious goods and services”—which fits our culture like a glove rather than transforming it, is as deadly as it is tempting.

To the ministry students, I will probably say, you need to ponder often and deeply what real “success” in God’s kingdom looks like. The church needs pastors, not religious rock stars. It is very difficult to be a real pastor to a flock so large that you don’t know the faces and names of the sheep. A large church can be a great blessing, but so can a small one. And let’s be honest: Most large churches in our land aren’t large because they’re good at bringing unbelievers to Christ; they’re large predominantly because they’re good at making small churches smaller.

I’ll probably also (ironically, I’m afraid) tell the students to guard their hearts against cynicism.

I’ll warn them against the idea propounded by church growth seminars that most churches are just one amazing program or one big change away from explosive growth, an idea that invariably produces explosions and hurts most the very sheep who least deserve the wounds.

I’ll tell them to look at Moses and his faithful leadership. I’ll also tell them to think about, pray about, and take steps to avoid,  the mistake even Moses made by allowing weariness and frustration to lead him to “strike the rock” (Numbers 20). It’s every tired pastor’s temptation.

I’ll tell them, don’t forget whose kingdom it is you’re giving your life to help build. (Clue: It’s not yours.)

I’ll urge them, love the Lord. Love the flock, real people with real faces, joys, and sorrows. Never dishonor them and demean your calling by using them to feed your ego, as if they are simply a stepping stone on your career path. Remember that these are God’s people whom you’re privileged and called to walk beside as you make this journey together, learning each day to live in faith, in grace, following the Lord.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


A Church Advertisement That Will Never Appear

 

church 001

A very good friend just sent me an ad he saw for a new church in a city miles away from mine.

I’ve long thought that, for city churches particularly, some seriously thought-out and well done advertising might be very good. In this case, an existing church is starting a new one. The ad is well done, nicely packaged, and accurately reflects their approach to “church.”

They’ll kick off soon with a “rally.” Fine. Likely a very good idea. (But, please don’t tell my wife and dear friends who were cheerleaders, I never saw a rally with “pep” in front of it that I wouldn’t prefer to miss. It’s a personality flaw, I know.)

The ad says, “No perfect people are allowed.” Good. Such are hard to find and “wannabees” are annoying.

“Relevant” messages. Hmm. Theology lite or just good preaching? No organ for sure. I assume, no traditional hymns, but a “rockin’ band.” Right. This cool model requires it. “Casual dress.” Okay.

The ad didn’t say anything about a pastor. A plastic one on screen who preaches well but won’t show up at anybody’s surgery or do any funerals?

This really may be a great group, but its extremely popular approach is nothing new. In the 60s, mood rings, lava lamps, and the “church growth movement” showed up. The latter has lasted longer, but it has always felt a little plastic and trendy to me, a “consumer” approach that focuses on glitz and low to no expectations, assuming that discipleship will follow once folks are in the door. It is a troubling fact that Jesus ran folks off in droves taking exactly the opposite approach. Do I want to run people off? Noooooo!

I’m kidding a bit with part of what follows, but try this ad.

Large print. “We love Christ. We love you. We want you to come!”

Not-so-fine print: “Just so you’ll know, we sort of figure that commitment might mean attending at a faith-building (and not faith-withering) rate of more than half the time. That’s extremely generous, and nobody’s counting; we just love you and love it when the family’s together.

“You can call our building or sanctuary a worship center if you want to, but we don’t mind being called a church.

“We aren’t in the least embarrassed about taking up an offering. We can’t/won’t/shouldn’t require it, but we encourage sacrificial giving as a God-honoring blessing to all concerned.

“We won’t be ashamed to ask for some help doing stuff. What you say Yes to is completely your choice, but if you say No all the time, that says something, too. We are not a consumer church. If you want one those, glitzy and asking of you nothing at all, it won’t be hard to find.

“Formal dress is not at all required, but it’s just a fact that our pastor probably won’t wear jeans he paid extra to have holes in.

“We’re not very trendy and not all that cool. But when we say, ‘It’s all about Jesus, we mean it.’ It ain’t all about us or all about you. We figure serving a crucified Lord has consequences. You can ‘Have It Your Way’ at Burger King, but probably not 100% of the time here. You might even have to endure serious persecution by singing a song or two you don’t like that blesses someone else. That’s okay. They’ll do the same for you. We’ll never be mega-anything except seriously in love with Christ and the people He loves.

“If this picture seems God-focused to you, welcome! Come on in!”

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


When a Little Church Closes Its Doors

 

IMG_1800-cropped

Another church in our little community closed its doors recently. Worshiped on a Sunday pretty much as usual and then, at least temporarily, shut down.

That church opened its doors, I’m told, in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression. She weathered tough times; it was prosperous times that were the larger challenge.

That’s not a big surprise, if you read a little church history. The church (the church universal and all her many congregations, not specifically the little church I’ve mentioned) has always been stronger in hard times and much less so in easier times. For Christians in America, the problem has rarely been death in persecution; the larger danger has always been that we’d die in our apathetic sleep.

But the closing of that little church makes me sad. They’ve been a church where “everybody knows your name,” not a mega-glitz church where almost no one does. I’m deeply thankful for my jillions of siblings in God’s large family whose names I can’t know but who wear His. But I’m particularly thankful for folks like these who names and faces I’ve known for years.

You see, we’re not a mega-church mega-town where any of our churches can afford to blindly ignore the others because we’re so busy or big. We have plenty of faults, but I doubt any of our churches are under any illusion that with some super programs and a great business plan we’ll grow to be the “Christian” equivalent of Disney’s Magic Kingdom or make the cover of Religion 500.

Being little carries with it a large reminder: We’re not only part of the larger Body of Christ, we’re part of Christ’s Body right here. When Christ’s people here hurt, even if they don’t hail from my group or worship down the pew from me, I hurt.

During plague times, pastor and poet John Donne wrote, “Don’t send to ask for whom the bell tolls [tolling out news of another death]; it tolls for thee.” What he wrote of individuals is true here. When a good church closes its doors, it diminishes the rest of us.

Tough times. In this world, real persecution against Christians is increasing alarmingly even as in our society prosperity and complacency weaken the church in ways persecution cannot. And, at the very time churches here are losing their older, more faithful members, our society is becoming increasingly “faith-less.”

Attendance is just one symptom, but a symptom it is, crossing all lines. “I’ll be there anytime the doors are open. Providing the dog doesn’t seem to be developing a sniffle. Or if my third cousin’s aunt doesn’t come to visit. Or if the barometric pressure in Bolivia is conducive to my coming. Anyway, I’ll probably almost for sure see you sometime maybe.”

As always, when despair is tempting, it’s time to look up. Time to remember Jesus’ promise that even “the Gates of Hell will not prevail against my church.” Christ’s Body will not only be okay, victory is assured.

In the meantime, it might not hurt to remember how incredibly encouraging such a seemingly small thing as a practical choice to show up and bow in worship can be to the members of Christ’s Body whose faces we know. While the doors are still open.

 

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


An Icy Road Here Does Not Mean an Icy Road Everywhere

IMG_1895

“Are you crazy?!”

That was the reaction of our Amarillo kids as my wife and I loaded up to head home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

“Do you not want these grandchildren you love so much to grow up with two sets of grandparents? Don’t drive home!”

Normally, we can make that trip blindfolded. The problem is boredom. But the problem Saturday was ice. Not snow. Freezing rain. Ice. Lots of it.

Did I mention it was Saturday? They come before Sundays. As a pastor (Protestant with kids!) I decided long ago that I’d vote for an even trade between Saturdays and Sundays. Just switch ’em.

I like Saturdays (except for Saturday nights), and I love what happens on Sundays (though I also love Sunday nights; they’re as far as you can get from Sunday mornings). I just think Saturdays (especially the nights) would be improved by following Sundays. I won’t bore you with all of my reasons for thinking such nonsense, but . . .

Christians would go to church whenever Sundays happened. (At least, as many of them as go to church now.) Pagans would still have what they count as two Saturdays and the two evenings before them on which to misbehave and create mayhem. So I can’t see that the switch would much alter anyone’s plans.

It won’t happen, of course. I doubt even a current presidential candidate who, for votes, would promise to turn the moon into cheesecake could make it happen.

So Sunday was barreling down the track like a runaway train. Chasing Saturday. And Saturday in Amarillo was covered in ice.

I’d spent an hour or two helping one son try to shovel ice off the driveway. Snow’s easier. Another son had been on duty driving a fire truck on the ice. No fun at all.

Interstate 40, heading west, had been closed. Nobody up north of Amarillo was going anywhere. Churches were canceling or altering service schedules.

I’d heard of ice-wrought power outages back home, 95 miles southwest, I wasn’t hearing anything about road closures, cancellations, etc.

So we loaded up and slid that direction. Slowly. Carefully. One lane most of the way. Then, about 30 miles out, some clearing.

I drove into the church parking lot to check things out and turn up the heaters inside. I’d been dreading getting to shovel more sidewalk ice. But . . .

But though it was cold, and ice was covering trees and roofs, the walks were mostly just moist or dry! I stopped. My wife and I gazed through the windshield, and I just said, “This feels weird.”

We’d waked up at the North Pole, but now . . .

God cares how we feel. But it’s a mistake to let “ice” in one patch of your life’s journey convince you that the whole universe is icy. Our view is skewed by the weather under our own hats. It’s wise to take our own view into account; it’s very foolish indeed to completely trust it.

Only our Creator sees reality perfectly clearly. If you’re navigating an icy road right now, you’d be wise to let him chart the course, deal with the storm, and get you home.

 

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Satan Is a Snake of the Subtlest Sort

 

serpentcrush

Back in Genesis 3, just before the account of mankind’s fall to sin in the Garden of Eden, we’re told, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.”

Maybe that was true of the breed in general, but it was certainly true of one souped up Satanic snake, a demon-possessed viper. Venom was oozing from his slick tongue a good while before he actually sank his fangs into our gullible First Parents and spoiled Paradise. Yes, Satan was evil and twisted and cruel, but he certainly was also crafty. He still is. (Read C. S. Lewis’ classic The Screwtape Letters for a witty lesson in this regard!)

If, for example, Satan can get our attitudes poisoned, he’s just as happy for us to go to church on Sundays as he is for us to sleep in.

“Go on to church,” he may whisper in our ear. “And a pat on the back to you! How much better you are than the folks at home still snoozing!”

Once we’re there, opportunities abound for just a little venom injected here and there to poison our attitudes and twist our thoughts. The point is to get us completely focused inward on self and not upward on God. If we’re in “God’s house” but bordered on all sides by “me, myself, mine, and I,” Satan smiles a snaky smile. It’s so easy for the old viper to direct our gaze! Anything from Sister Smithers’ weird hat to Brother Gunther’s strange tones to the preacher’s annoying speech habit or the pianist’s missed keys will do the job quite well.

“Go on to church. It’ll do you good,” Satan whispers. Notice a little lisp? It’s caused by that slit in his tongue and his need to speak around fangs.

If we go to worship to bow before ourselves as consumers of religious goods and services, Satan would far rather we go to church than stay home. That snaky lisp is never more apparent—all those S sounds, you know—than when Satan whispers in our ears, “Enjoy yourssssssself. Worship, like everything else in your life, is all about you, your needs, your desires, your tastes.” If we listen, that snake is close enough to put a fang through our ear lobes. No big bites needed when a subtle but poisonous little pit viper drip will do the job every bit as well.

“Why not go to church?” he asks, knowing that he has done some fine work there.

Of course, the opposite has also worked admirably, too, from his point of view. He’s equally happy for ol’ Joe Blow to blow on about “all those hypocrites at church” if such smog helps Joe coddle the hypocrite under his own hat.

The serpent is not particular about the type of poison he uses or the rate of its effect, just as long as it is deadly.

Crafty he is. And too close for comfort. A snake of the subtlest sort. Hmm. I may have heard him whisper in my ear a time or two as I’ve been trying to write this column.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Real Ministry Centers on Relationship, Not Marketing

lilie-bible

Thirty years. Easter Sunday was for my wife and me our 30th anniversary.

“Interesting,” someone might say, “since three of your four sons are older than 30. Glad you got around to tying the knot.”

Now did I say it was a wedding anniversary? No, I did not.

But, though I couldn’t have known it fully at the time, Easter Sunday 1985, my first Sunday in the pulpit of the church I still serve, bore witness to a covenant much more akin to a marriage than to a business contract or a casual employment arrangement between preacher and church, each looking for a good deal.

I remember that some of my pastoral colleagues in the city from whence I moved were worried about me. They didn’t like the look of the marriage. I was headed to a smaller town and a small church. These were pastors in “connectional systems” who, if they did a good job, could pretty much count on at least some “upward mobility.”

I tried in vain to explain that seriously prestigious churches (which probably should be a contradiction in terms anyway) in our little group were rare to non-existent. Any preacher in my anti-denomination denomination wanting to climb a career “ladder” had better jump the fence and look for ladders elsewhere. Our little group of churches had plenty of problems of its own, but an over-abundance of “ladders” was not one of them.

Maybe in a sense my colleagues were right. Thirty years in a small church “marriage” may indeed spell death to a “career.” And in that may lie great blessing as both church and pastor learn some precious truths, and together they grow in ways that matter.

Real ministry is more than marketing; the real thing centers on relationship. It starts, of course, with loving the Lord first of all and then building on that divine love in human relationship. Building anything worthwhile takes time.

Relationships can be messy, and the best and the worst in life in a local church centers on the fact that the church is as human as it is heavenly. On any given day or any given moment, it can and does veer wildly off in either direction. And pastors face choices. To be law people or grace people. To be organization people or relationship people. To be bean counters or to be shepherds. Somewhere along the way (and this is true in other professions, too, by the way), they find out if their lives are about “calling” or “career.”

Pastor and author Eugene Peterson warns that in our market-driven consumer society, the last folks the church needs as pastors are religious entrepreneurs with business models who cut and run whenever the present church “marriage” loses its glitz: “The vocation of pastor has to do with living out the implications of the word of God in community, not sailing off into the exotic seas of religion in search of fame or fortune.”

Thirty years of laughter, love, and precious tears. I’m still very thankful indeed for the “marriage.” But if this is just a “career,” boy, do I need a ladder!

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“The Most Beautiful Experiences of My Life Were With . . .”

worshiping 01

What would you say if I told you that it really is possible to have a wonderful group of friends that truly are as close as family?

What would you say if I told you that it really is possible to surround yourself with a group of folks who love you so much that they are always willing to laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry?

What if I told you that you can have the strength that comes from being a very significant part of the lives of people who, while they are very different in many ways, deep down share the same most hallowed convictions and beliefs and would die rather than deny the Lord behind those beliefs?

Ah, you’re getting ahead of me now, aren’t you? You know what I’m talking about.

Are you lonely? You don’t have to be! Are you happy? You’ll be even happier sharing your joy. Are you sad? You don’t have to cry alone! Not if you’re a genuine part of a church family—-and not just a consumer church Piety Mart where “all your needs are met”—but a “family” where relationship matters and you are there because you want to glorify your Lord and you care about helping meet somebody else’s needs and encouraging God’s people.

Let’s be honest. If you’re a Christmas and Easter and largely politely fictitious member who no jury in the land would “convict” of membership on the basis of such hard evidence as attendance and giving, well, you’ll get more than you put in, but church simply can’t be the blessing for you that it could be.

I’m talking about being a working, productive, significant, integral part of a real live Christian family. I’m talking about being so much a part of a Body that losing you would be for them like cutting off a finger or toe. Losing you would hurt! You’d be missed!

I know all the dodges.

Do you have to go to church to be a believer? It’s a bad question. It’s like asking me which of my legs I’d most like to cut off. A better question is, if I did cut one off, how long would it be of much practical use? How could it help the body it was severed from? Could it “glorify” the Head by refusing to help the body walk?

Maybe you had a bad experience in church. Maybe the preacher preached that everyone except folks just like him were condemned to hell. Or maybe you went to one that taught a “do it yourself” salvation and barely pointed to Christ at all. If you want more than that, good for you, but don’t quit! I took a bite out of a rotten apple once. To be sure it doesn’t happen again, I haven’t eaten a bite of anything since! I’m kidding, but quitting church because of a bad experience is about that sensible.

I’ve had some bad experiences in churches, too. Some. But the lion’s share of the most beautiful experiences of my life were in or because of church, and I’d be a pauper, and not a very smart one, if I denied myself those rich times because of some bad ones.

If you’re not a genuine part of a church, a real Christian family, you’re much poorer for it. Don’t rob yourself!

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Let Us Not Give Up Meeting Together”

 

thanksgiving 003As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m reminded that one of the best blessings enjoyed by the community in which I live is the spirit of goodwill and unity which generally prevails among the churches and pastors in our area. No small blessing, that’s a big reason I like living here.

The community worship opportunities, such as the community Thanksgiving service on the horizon, warm my heart and give me hope. What a witness to believers and unbelievers alike who are sadly accustomed to division in this world but surprised by unity. What a blessing when God’s people come together to celebrate that which unites us.

It may also be a command, by the way. No kidding.

Christians will remember that we are commanded to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4). And, though we treasure the beautiful “Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer of Christ that truly deserves that title is the Lord’s beautiful and poignant prayer for unity in John 17.

Christ was serious about unity. A lot more serious than many of his followers have been. Church history through the ages (and our own sad experience) points to lots of teapot tempests over all sorts of obscure Scriptures, fusses undertaken while the combatants, “biting and devouring each other,” ignored the Lord’s very clear, very plain, plea for unity.

But the passage I have in mind right now is not Ephesians 4 or John 17 or any of the other “landmark” passages on Christian unity. No, it’s Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

You thought that was about going to church, didn’t you? Well, it probably is. I’m quite sure that in principle it applies to our attendance at worship in our own congregations. We’ll bless ourselves and our fellow worshipers by being committed enough to Christ to be serious about being at worship. If we become lax in that regard, our faith is in more serious jeopardy than we might think. (See the next few verses, Hebrews 10:26-31, if you doubt that.)

But, if you do a little study, you’ll find or recall that in those “early church” days, Christians in a given community met in “house churches,” small groups all over the area. (Hmm. I guess in that regard it was a lot like us. No big signs, though.) Did they ever all come together, all of the house churches with each of their pastors (collectively, the “elders” of that city)? I don’t know. It’s an interesting possibility, though. Those whose hard study has earned them a right to a worthwhile opinion say that church history is murky about those details.

But I know it’s good for us to do that once in a while. I wish we did it a lot more often.

It just might be a command. It would certainly be a blessing. Whenever it happens even for a little while, it’s a good thing.

“Let us not give up meeting together.”

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


%d bloggers like this: