This week I began a new transition time for a church again. Whenever I go into a new transition experience I feel like I am launching into a new adventure of real faith because I don’t know what I will encounter or how it will go. Though I have done this quite a number of times every situation is unique and presents me with new challenges of relationship and skill competency. It is my own version of what it means to “step out of the boat and walk on water.” I know it might not seem as dramatic as that to some but for me it’s always a big step of faith. There are lots of “what ifs” that come to mind. I feel very dependent on the Lord for His help and find myself praying a lot. And God always seems to be there to work the miracle that’s required.
I loved the experience of worshipping and speaking to the church this morning. People were warm and responsive to me personally and to the message that I brought from Isaiah 40. It was a wonderful time of recognizing again the wonder of what God’s church is all about. Despite all the difficulties connected to church life, you’ve got to love the church. I came early and sat in the beautifully prepared sanctuary as the worship team practiced their worship pieces for the service. I was impressed with the precision of care that people took to prepare for our worship time together. As I waited someone came to prepare coffee at the coffee bar to make it easier for people to feel at home and to share some fellowship with one another. It wasn’t long before the large sanctuary was relatively full of people of every age and stage in life.
I liked that the service had structure and some degree of formality but also a sense of ease and casualness that made it a genuine experience of Christian worship and fellowship. The worship leadership team of young musicians led the congregation well in meaningful expressions of worship that included singing, prayer, and the giving of tithes and offerings. The service was well-planned and executed so that anyone from the outside could get a pretty good sense of what Christian worship was all about. For my part, I led them in an explanation of my role and then a consideration of the greatness of God’s glory as expressed in the 40th chapter of Isaiah. My plan was to lead the church in a sense of anticipation about the future based on the greatness of God as expressed in the glory of His Word, His Good News, and His majestic creation.
Despite the difficulties, I love the church because it is the only fellowship of people in the world that exists on the basis of a shared response to God’s revelation in Scripture and in His Son, Jesus Christ. The glory of any particular church is that there is a profound experience there of God’s grace in the music, in the prayers, in the sense of love between virtual strangers, and in a serious consideration of the meaning of God’s revelation in Scripture. There is a richness in the experience of true Christian worship that rises above all the evil and suffering of this world. There is nothing else like it in any other context of human experience. It is a unique privilege to belong to the church and to share the richness of its truth and fellowship.
I don’t know how long I’m going to be engaged in this transition experience but whatever its length I sense that it will make a profound impact on my renewed appreciation for the glory of the church. Likewise, I hope and pray that this time will be a renewed and enriching experience for this church in which it is able to see beyond the petty problems that so easily come to capture the focus of its attention instead of the glory of God. For it is in seeing the glory of God’s church that we are led to deal successfully with its challenges and negative human elements. May God be glorified in and through His church in this place!