Feb 23

We continue to pray and share about the vision God has for our church, and specifically the plan He has for us for this year. Along with that we have taken a short, quick run through our Mission Statement, which can be found on the front of our Family Page and next to this Blog on our website. Sunday we take a look at the last part of our Mission Statement: “Proclaiming His Word; offering authentic worship in all we do.”

The subject of worship, and more specifically the direct, corporate worship that is the church’s worship assembly, has come up in this space over the past few weeks. And on twitter. And in blogs, including my “blog” (AKA Family Page article) from Feb. 9th which can be found here. These are in response to an article/blog by Donald Miller that I quote in that space. I also relate some important thoughts on this subject and related discussion in my sermon, “Revelation and Vision,” which can be heard at this link.

One of those responses is an excellent article in Christianity Today by Caryn Rivadeneira and Marlena Graves. Below is an excerpt as the writers develop the important truth that is the title of the article: “Why We Don’t Just Need Community, We Need Church.” They affirm, “In our own sacred spaces and circles of friends, we can’t recreate the body of Christ.” The full article can be found here.

The only way you and I can learn to love deeply is to be loved in healthy ways and to learn to love those who are different than we are—including those who get on our nerves. Love is often inconvenient. We don’t get to be the bouncers at the traditional church service doors, turning people away and picking only our friends to be our community. And because we’re not the bouncers, there will be people near us who challenge our love skill sets.

I worry that Miller’s model is too exclusive—too self-selecting. While it’s important to have like-minded friends and colleagues, we must also interact closely with those unlike us, those who may irk us, if we are ever to learn to love the way Jesus would have us love. It is imperative that we contribute to everyone’s flourishing, including the irksome and the hurtful that behave as our enemies. It’s not easily done, and may take a long time, but it is what Jesus calls us to do. While giving and receiving love is often joyous, learning to love often requires that we experience frustration. (Here I am not advocating subjecting ourselves to spiritual, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse—in that case, please flee to a safe place.)

Being in a traditional service can grow our ability to love, but just as importantly, it can teach us to receive love from those who aren’t like-minded. Hopefully, as we become more hospitable to and learn to receive hospitality from those who differ from us we’ll be surprised at how and in whom Jesus Christ shows up. God forbid we accidentally bounce Jesus out at the door.

Bill Allen

Dr. Bill Allen preached at South Fork from 2005 to 2015. He received a Bachelors degree in Bible from Oklahoma Christian in 1978, a Masters in Bible from Abilene Christian (ACU) in 1988, and a Doctor of Ministry from ACU in 1992. He now preaches at the West Erwin Church of Christ in Tyler, Texas.

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