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July 05th, 2020
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gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

As one who wasn’t in church the first 11 years of life, I love the church. Since first being invited to Vacation Bible School, I’ve attended worship services in sanctuaries, a lodge hall, a storefront, school building, under the stars, and sitting on the steps of a temple overlooking the Mount of Olives. 

Now, after several months of not being in regular services, I and many others are aching to be back in church on Sundays. A friend of ours talks of how much she missed her “peeps” – the people in her local congregation – during these unusual times. 

Others may be getting comfortable with sitting home watching online preaching and music. It’s true there is an invisible church, and we are part of a spiritual Kingdom. So, a pandemic or any other catastrophe will not destroy or deter the work of the Church. There is also the visible church, with buildings and people who gather for the common purpose of worshiping God. 

The Scripture says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

The apostle John, who was close to 90 years of age, wrote the Book of Revelation.  “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10). Exiled to the Isle of Patmos, John was still “in church” that day when a powerful vision was given to him. He saw the risen Christ walking among seven golden lampstands and carrying seven stars. John was given the interpretation: “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). In this passage, God specifically centers both worship and witness in the church. The glory of the church is to serve as a light to the world. 

As Christ left earth as a man, the Spirit of God had come upon the church at Pentecost, purifying and enabling it to be the visible body of Christ. Jesus in John 8:12 said, “‘I am the light of the world’” and then told his followers, “‘you are the light of the world’” (Matthew 5:14). There have been times over the centuries that the light has been darkened by materialism, heresy, compromise or worse. Yet over and over the church has been revived and cleansed of its spiritual shabbiness, shining forth God’s mercy and grace with appealing warmth. 

That 11-year-old who attended church for the first time has come to rely on it as my strong foundation of compassion and trust. I’d like to propose a number of benefits of meeting together. 

• In a church setting, we are challenged to reflect the redeeming love of Christ, to be positive, considerate and accountable. Galatians 6:1 encourages us, “…restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” 

• With Christ at the center we become more other-focused. Healthy compassion in relationships helps protect from depression and anxiety. Colossians 3:16 says, “…teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” 

• Finding purpose is easier when part of a group. The Covid isolation has been difficult for many, but we can help lift and direct one another. Ephesians 2:10 reminds, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared.” 

• Social interaction may improve memory and thought processes. The opposite of group-think, there is a give and take of ideas, “as iron sharpens iron” when we grow and learn together. In addition, Jesus said, “‘The Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you’” (John 14:26). 

• Members of the body help one another grow by teaching, correcting and mentoring. Psalm 145:4 states, “One generation shall commend your works to another.” It’s not always the older members, though we should take the role of discipling. Younger people have much wisdom and insight – as well as vision and energy. 

• Being part of a church body gives opportunity to exercise compassion. Genesis 2:18 says, “‘It is not good for man to be alone.’” Good in marriage relationships, the concept of sharing is also valuable for brothers and sisters in a community, with ripples that extend to the world. Throughout history, the church has been involved with orphanages, schools, hospitals, and other ministries for the poor and disadvantaged. The church has held marriage sacred, strengthened families and communities, and it raises the strongest voice for sanctity of life. 

May we like John be “in the Spirit” on the church’s day of worship. May we find our personal experience inspired by church involvement. And may Christ in the midst of his Church provide hope, comfort, understanding and inspiration to the world. 

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