A week of thankfulness: Church heritage

I was raised in the church of Christ (big C, little C). And I’m thankful. I’ve gone from “Hebrew of Hebrews” to cynical college student to one who has made his faith his own. I’ve seen the good, I’ve seen the bad, and I’ve been a part of both. Today, I’m thankful.

I’ve written before about how growing up in the Johnson St. church shaped my faith. I was blessed to attend Abilene Christian University at a special time, studying under some amazing men. I’ve been a part of other congregations that have impacted me: the Highland church in Abilene, the 37th and Atlantic church in Long Beach (as we called it then), the University church in Abilene, the Alto Alberdi church in Córdoba, and the church in Stockdale, Texas. Each of them has contributed to making me who I am.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Chris Gallagher’s blog. I posted it here, but it seems appropriate to post these thoughts again:

I love the church in her ideal state:

  • The unblemished, purified Bride of Christ, waiting to meet her Bridegroom
  • The new Jerusalem, descending from heaven as God’s dwelling in the midst of His people
  • The body of Christ, growing up into the very image of the One who bought her with His blood
  • The earthly manifestation of the Kingdom of God

I love the church in her flawed reality:

  • The congregation whose off-key singing makes a strong argument for instrumental music
  • The brothers who check off the five acts of worship on their scoresheet each week
  • The new Christian who discovers that word he’s always used isn’t as appropriate as he thought it was
  • The free spirits who launch into anything and everything without considering the ramifications

I love the church at her very best:

  • People opening their homes to strangers because they share the same Savior
  • Christians giving sacrificially so that others may learn about Jesus
  • Widows and teenagers and bank presidents dressing up as biblical characters to entertain and teach at Vacation Bible School
  • Believers gathering to praise and worship God even though that very thing could land them in jail

I love the church at her absolute worst:

  • Members fighting over personal issues, masking them behind alleged doctrinal differences
  • Christians falling into the very same sins that plague the people around them
  • Leaders giving into the human temptations of power and position, lording their authority over those around them
  • Longtime churchgoers who continue to feed on spiritual baby food, whining and crying when they don’t get their way

I love the church in the world today:

  • The family of God, loving one another as children of the same Father
  • Strangers and aliens, pilgriming together to the Promised Land on the other side of Jordan
  • Royal priests, heavenly ambassadors, holding out the Word of God to an unbelieving humanity
  • Faithful witnesses, enduring ridicule and shame for the sake of the Name

I love the church in all her manifestations, in all her glory and all her failings, because all of those things represent who I am as a Christian. I am a sinner, and I am forgiven. I am flawed, and I am perfection waiting to happen. I am human, and I am supernatural, a holy temple of God.

I am the church. My place in the Kingdom of God is an inseparable part of who I am. When I criticize her, I am really criticizing me, for her flaws are merely a reflection of the human condition of which she is made. When I praise her, I am praising my God, for her goodness is only a reflection of His.

I love the church. As it has been. As it is. As it someday will be.

*****

I am thankful for my church heritage.

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