For about five weeks now, Sunday afternoons at Barracuda Coffee Company have seen a small family called Reliance Fellowship get together to worship God and, through our first sermon series, “The Church is not Directionally Challenged,” learn what the church is actually supposed to do in this crazy world of ours. Part of the point of this series has been to encourage and educate our young family on the very specific purpose for which God created the church.
First and foremost, it is up to us to decide who we believe Jesus Christ to be, and that is nothing less than the Son of the Living God. Without this cornerstone, we have nothing to offer the world, no reliable source of joy, no way of turning our dysfunctional natures into a functional church that actually impacts communities around us. When churches wind up being as dysfunctional as any other human organization, that doesn’t speak well to the Truth we proclaim we have to offer. Personally, I believe it’s why millions of people in my generation have lost faith in the church – they see the infighting, the bickering, the petty disagreements and wonder what is so special about this place called the church when their Jesus doesn’t seem to give them any more peace than government leaders or even the boy scouts.
Since Reliance Fellowship is still in its infancy, it’s important that we start with a strong foundation, and what could possibly be stronger than a belief in the healing and transformational power of salvation through Christ? All that being said, a foundation means nothing when we are not building upon it, and the rest of the sermon series focused on what we do with this foundational core Truth, activities such as standing out from the brokenness of the world around us as we reach out to friends and family who need the love of Christ. Two points in the sermon series which spoke to me most, though, were the need to act as a functional family, and the necessity of realizing that failure in our mission does not mean that Christ is not everlastingly there, ready to reach out His hand to offer us forgiveness.
Let me start with the issue of accepting forgiveness. In my experience, it is easy to admit that we have done wrong, but difficult to accept forgiveness. The difference? Accepting forgiveness means believing that we can change, that we are capable of more, that the pattern of destructive behavior and mistakes in which we find ourselves CAN be broken. When Christ reaches out to us, he’s not just saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.” He’s saying, “I can make you better. I can make you more joyful, more fulfilled, than you can possibly imagine.” But we can’t reach out to grasp His hand when we are stubbornly clinging to our old ways. To me personally, that says that there is always hope for me in Christ, and as a church, I believe that means we should (and we can) function as a unit – ever-forgiving, ever-hopeful, knowing there will always be some sort of failure ahead of us because we are fallen sinners, but that our failure is ready to be forgiven and redeemed through Christ. The church, then, needs to be a family.
Which brings me to what spoke to me most about this whole series: the idea that the church functions as a family. We’ve been meeting for just about six weeks now, and though we’ve consistently had at least one new person a week, there hasn’t been the explosive growth that I myself pictured. In the prayerful months leading up to the first time I ever sat down and had a long discussion about God and forgiveness with Jacob, I had visions of grandeur and how hugely Reliance would impact the community. And though huge impact can, and Lord willing, will come later, these humble beginnings have taught me the crucial importance of a warm, welcoming family, and so far, so good. In addition to our small gathering, local churches have been extremely supportive of our venture, which speaks to Christ’s love. Instead of an atmosphere of competition, which is what one might expect in any other given business venture, this is one of encouragement and excitement. We are not doing this for ourselves; we are doing this for God.
I get excited to come to church every Sunday, not just for the Scriptural lessons that will be imparted, not just because of the importance of corporate worship, but because this may just be the first time I’ve ever felt that the church I attend isn’t just a family, but that it’s MY family. It’s a group of no more than thirty people, all contributing their gifts and passion for God, with me in the middle, able to exercise my passion for writing in a way I never really imagined would be possible, for God. This is a family, no doubt about it, and as we move forward in trying to impact the Tri-Cities community more and more, these first few months are going to prove to be crucial as we build a tight-knit community, a family of people who love each other because we love Christ. Without Christ, and without our church functioning as a loving, accepting, and forgiving family, we will not have an impact. The vibe and the warmth and the lessons and the love of these first six weeks, however, have me believing and hoping our impact will be grand indeed.
God bless, and God speed.