12 Reasons I'm Thankful for My Church
This Lord's Day starts the week of our annual Thanksgiving Day tradition. It's commonplace to share or reflect on things for which we're grateful. With that in mind, I've compiled several thoughts and comments enumerating twelve reasons I'm thankful for my church. 1. We do battle together. As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. If we are to be sharpened we will sometimes hurt each other — but not in a way that destroys. In a way that builds up toward godliness. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. If such wounds build us up more into the image of Christ, then they can only be for our good. There are so many things I appreciate about the brothers and sisters at my church. I am grateful for their continual striving for righteousness and for their earnest pursuit of peace. We need that. Any church desperately needs such influence. A Christian does great service to the cause of Christ as he seeks truth and peace with all men. Even in time of conflict and when the discomfort of bereavement weighs heavy on our souls to the point of physical exhaustion, we must remember God is strong in our weakness. When we are weak, he is strong. He is faithful to complete every good work he begins, and we will reap a goodly reward if we are faithful and endure to the end.
2. Freedom to worship God in spirit and truth. There are many new and contemporary church trends today. Yet we have the rare opportunity to follow God's will when it comes to worshiping him in our assembly. When God chastises his people he scatters them abroad. When he blesses his people, he gathers them together for his worship. When men discover like-mindedness and singleness of purpose, to be able to pursue a specific area of ecclesiastical reform and see fruition of blessings, it is a remarkable sign of God's grace. God has brought families together within our body who desired to be faithful to his commands — and we are grateful to the Lord for his mercy. While many churches are supremely concerned with losing members or paying off their debts, it is refreshing to see men and women who choose to take a stand on principle and worship God according to his Word.
3. We open the Scriptures. We are blessed to be able to preach uncensored Biblical messages, messages that cover the entirety of Scriptural application to all of faith and practice in our lives. Several have remarked and been surprised that we open the Scriptures each week, read from the Word, and preach exegetically from it! I know without a doubt that much sacrifice goes into the preparations of such sermons by the elders who hold this responsibility. But there is no doubt that uncensored preaching is a privilege few churches enjoy, especially with those worried about their non-profit status.
4. We encourage men to be leaders. This is a huge and significant battleground in our culture right now. Even among some of the most well-known evangelical leaders in our culture today. A frequently highlighted theme is women in leadership. Leaders of well-known organizations are afraid they will be sued if their female employees are not adequately represented in leadership and churches are afraid of getting sued for underpaying secretaries. As churches continue to embrace liberal theologies they advance the idea of putting women in positions of ministry leadership over men. Some go so far as to represent biblical, Old Testament patriarchy as a "rape culture". This is in mainstream Christianity. Churches feel they need to have women in equal roles of church leadership and encourage their public leadership role in the church assembly. Our church has encouraged the equipping of men as leaders. We have drawn a line in the sand. People may not flock to our church when this is our outspoken stance. And yet we would gladly suffer for Christ's sake for the privilege of obeying his word and keeping gender roles distinct where Scripture distinguishes.
5. We seek to be reverent in our musical worship. While this is still a work in progress, we are able to worship the Lord in song and music without grieving our consciences by participating in irreverent, performance-driven, emotional highs. It is refreshing to stand amid the congregation and to hear one another's voices as we praise the Lord among His saints. We've taken music and worship from a neo-evangelical theatrical production to a reformation-minded inclusion of blended voices in harmony.
6. We encourage parents to disciple their children and worship together before the Lord. While a huge percentage of churches encourage parents to drop their kids off upon walking in the doors, we enable inter-generational relationships and parental discipleship. These principles are so important to the development of a biblical church and family culture. This is overlooked so much in our culture today. It is a joy to go to church on Sundays and focus our efforts on the Kingdom of God by encouraging our families in righteousness and faith.
7. We understand the doctrine of the antithesis. Jesus told us the world would hate us because of Him, that we are in the world, but not of it, that our task is to reconcile the world to Him, to not be conformed to it, but to transform it with the love of Christ and the teaching of His law. At our church we have the liberty to not concern ourselves with the world's approval. We seek to engage culture — but without compromise. Few churches understand the doctrine of the antithesis. And fewer still will embrace the total scope of the doctrine and live their life in light of what it means.
8. Sovereignty of God. We preach that God governs over all the affairs of men, that He is ultimately in control. When man embraces this truth his life is changed. He knows his inability to save himself, his lack of any goodness in himself, that the only goodness he can hope to attain is the goodness of Christ in him. Few churches believe this doctrine, and if they do, they frequently conceal it. This is not to criticize other churches — every church has strengths and weaknesses. For me, I'm grateful we courageously communicate the sovereignty of God among our assembly and even to the countless individuals who do not covenant with us and view our conspicuous stand from a distance.
9. Our church is a culture thermometer. So many people have told us that they are watching our church and it is motivating them to seek the Lord; to reform their churches; to dig into the Scriptures and find what he has commanded. While the world views our church as extreme and even many Christians are not willing to go to the lengths that we have in departing from the evangelical norm, there are many who are inspired by our feeble attempts to draw closer to God's will. It challenges them to act consistent with a truly biblical worldview. This is no reflection on our own wisdom but simply that God has given us a remarkable opportunity to be faithful to him, as he gathers like-minded families to serve him together and be a light to those around us.
10. Always reforming according to the Word of God. There are few times in a generation like ours when churches are able to reform their worship according to the Word of God. Most in our era would rather be relevant to culture than relevant to Scripture. We have been able to take the proverbial desert island challenge: if all we had were the Scriptures, what would our church look like? We've made a stand against the culture.
11. We fight hard and hold fast during conflict. The New Testament records frequent disagreements and dissension between church factions and even church leadership. How men handle these matters shows their courage and unity. Discord that is later resolved becomes a testimony to the strength and character of the relationship. It is common for church members to disagree. The disagreement is not a problem when it is handled right. And when it is not handled right, we take a step back and reanalyze what we have done. We gain perspective from both the inexperienced and the seasoned counselor. We make mistakes, but we don't throw away what we have worked so hard for. As we've held fast God has blessed us richly!
12. We are a covenantal church. We live in a disposable society. Men throw away their wives, their friends, their families, their churches. In contrast, God makes covenants. He promises to be with us always, to draw us back again and again from wherever we wander. If he does not give up on us, how much less should we give up on one another. Yes, it can be wearisome. We sin against each other and wear each other down. But love is long-suffering. We have everything to gain by endurance and faithfulness and everything to lose by growing weary and giving up. We must remember God promises; in due time we will reap a reward. Each member has been invaluable in the health of our church. God has worked among us in great ways!