5 of the Best Things about The Church

Last week, I wrote about getting together with my larger family. This week I want to write about the same thing, only bigger. I want to talk about getting together with the larger church family.

I love the church where I serve, Fern Creek Christian. I love the diversity of folks. I love the opportunity to share life. I love how we are able to grow and serve together. But it’s also good to think about the fact that church is much bigger than just the people I see on Sunday. The Church is so much bigger, and makes more of a difference, than I can see — because the Church is so much bigger than just you and me.

Shine your light - at the North American Christian Convention
Shine your light – at the North American Christian Convention

I got to experience this, once again, at this year’s North American Christian Convention. The NACC is a gathering of several thousand folks who are striving to simply be Christians — followers of Jesus. At the NACC, we worship, we we are challenged & encouraged, and we see old friends and make new ones. In a nutshell, we are reminded that Christ’s Church is alive and well all over this country, and the world.

And as I reflect on why I love (and need) the larger church family, let me share these five things:

  1. We are family, no matter what. Our church family belongs together, because we need each other. Is life always easy, just because we follow Jesus? No. But we find ourselves needing others for the journey, precisely because it can be difficult. Church is the one place we should expect to experience love (even if it has to be tough love) — because family loves each other, no matter what.
  2. What unites us as a family is more important than what divides us. In church today, it is pretty easy to focus on the things we disagree about. The list is endless. But what holds us together must be stronger than what would pull us apart. Church is the place where we drawn together — and held together — because of Jesus. And Church must also be the place where what pulls us apart — our preferences, our wishes, and our feelings — never comes before the unity that we have in Jesus. What holds us together is not that we agree on everything; it’s that we agree on our need for Jesus.
  3. It’s really cool watching the church family grow. Is there anything more exciting than someone in your family having a baby? Is there anything more exciting than seeing a church give birth to new life in Christ? There is simply something wonderful about seeing new life begin. Church is that place — where we get a front row seat to watch people begin a life in Christ, and then watch them grow — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  4. Life is better with others you love. And Church is the place where we get to learn how to walk in the way of love. Can you think of any better thing to “walk in”?
  5. Laughter and joy should come naturally. Who has more reason to live life joyfully, full of hopeful laughter, than Jesus-followers? While at the NACC, I saw Tim Hawkins in concert. And I’m not ashamed to say that I laughed til I cried. Do you need a smile (or a belly laugh)? Give Tim a try. Life is meant to be joyful. Sure it has its times of sadness and pain. But faith recognizes that there is something deeper, something more meaningful than our hurt. Joy does not ignore life’s struggles; it simply knows a deeper truth — that we do not face the worst alone. We face them with Jesus in us and his people beside us.

If you’ve read this far, you might notice that my five points are exactly the same as in my previous post. (Just scroll down a few inches and you’ll see what I mean.) That’s because Church, when done right, is family. Church is not simply like family; it is family. For it is the place where we experience grace and love from God, and from each other. And by that love, we are changed.

The 5 Best Things about Family Reunions — and Families

Last week, my family got together for a family reunion. But this was no ordinary get-together. It was extraordinary because all 31 in my family were there — my parents, their five kids and spouses, and all the grandkids and great-grandkids. And it was even cooler because of the reason we gathered: to celebrate my parents’ 60th anniversary.

Mom & Dad on their big day - August 1, 1954
Mom & Dad on their big day – August 1, 1954

It was a fun weekend. The food was good; the weather was nice; and my team even won the Ultimate Frisbee game we played. But more importantly, this was the first time all 31 of us had been in the same place at the same time. And it was obviously the first time my mom and dad had a chance to celebrate 60 years of marriage.

I love getting together with my family, for special occasions or for just run-of-the-mill visits. And as I reflect on why I love (and need) family, five things come to mind:

  1. We are family, no matter what. Family is a place of love, no matter what we face — for family is the place where we are meant to face whatever we face, together. Is this always easy? No. Does it sometimes require hard choices? Absolutely. But family should always be the one place (even if it’s the only place) where I can be loved. No matter what.
  2. What unites us as a family is more important than what divides us. As I think about all the people in my family, there are some noticeable differences. Some worship at churches very different than what I am used to. Others look at life differently, or have everyday lives very different than mine. But what holds us together is not that we agree on everything; it’s that we are family. No matter what.
  3. It’s really cool watching my family grow. When we gathered, I got to meet my six-month-old great-nephew, Hudson, for the first time. And see his big brother Caleb for only the second time. Wow, had he changed! Is there any better place than family to watch others grow — physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Day after day, year after year, decade after decade — it is in family that we get to watch growth, and walk together through the growth that comes through the long journey of life.
  4. Life is better with others you love. Need I say more?
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    Never too old for a selfie; my folks, one of my daughters, and me
  5. Laughter and joy should come naturally. And in family they do. It was fun watching my kids laugh with their cousins at our family reunion. I loved seeing my dad tease my children — and having them see that my sense of humor is a genetic condition. It was cool watching the grandkids reenact how my parents met and got married. And I loved hearing my six-year-old great nephew tell me repeatedly how great it was that our team won the game of Ultimate Frisbee. Life is meant to be joyful. Sure it has its times of sadness, grief, anguish. The wise person doesn’t overlook those. But joy says there is something deeper, something more meaningful than our deepest pain. An insightful person once said that at the heart of the universe is laughter — the laughter of a God whose crazy, extravagant love meets us where we need it most. And oftentimes, the place we see this most clearly, is in family — when we share the joy of the journey with each other.

So, even when my family faces challenges (as they all do), I want to remember these five things. How about you?