I’m so excited to share this guest-post from my dear friend Maria with you. Maria is one of the wisest, kindest, and most thoughtful people I know, and I love chatting with her. I almost always come away with some new insight about what it really means to love God and love people, and I’m so grateful she volunteered to add her two cents to this conversation on what it means to be the church. Enjoy!
I’m intrigued by the question: “What does it really mean to be the church?”
I have to admit that I have thought a lot about this over the past year and a half. I’ve thought about how things I’ve been through in my life (and what I’ve seen in others’ lives) have shaped my view on what it means to be the church. I think this is a loaded question, but maybe as I continue to ask it, I will come to see more of God and more of what He wants His church to grow into.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV) says: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
They were happy to do this. I know some my fondest memories of being the church have been during similar moments! I also know that some of these moments have been my darkest. I’ve felt both incredible love by the church as well as incredible pain.
So I ask myself, “how was it different for these ‘church’ things to happen then vs. now?” Jesus had just conquered death. These believers experienced first hand the love Christ has for them. Can you imagine it? That love they had just experienced was flowing out of their very being!
And then I think about the church now, the church I see and have been a part of… How easy it can be to forget, in our hearts, the love Christ has for us and how much Christ loves others. We can get so caught up in the things we have to do to build our churches that we forget what it really takes…
Isaiah 40:11 (NIV) is a beautiful description of the very personal way, the very deep way that God loves us, and enters into our lives. The NIV says, “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young.” He tends, He gathers, He carries, He leads, He enters in; He loves.
In Matthew 18:12-14 (NIV) Jesus talks about leaving the ninety-nine to find the one. When a sheep wanders from the flock the shepherd goes to find it. He stops all he’s doing to find the one lost and wandering sheep and CARRIES that sheep over his shoulders back to the flock.
The flock… Our fellow believers. The people of God. The people Christ gave His life for. It isn’t the ministries or the preaching or the group environments that make the church (although they are important); it’s the people and our call to love like Christ loves. It’s dying to our agendas and causes that take us away from really hearing the hearts of those around us and “entering in” with them.It isn't ministries that make the church; it's the people & our call to love like Christ loves. Click To Tweet
I don’t know how we can do this perfectly. I don’t have any grand ideas,but I know we have a Shepherd who knows His flock and will give us the wisdom we need to love well. As we are seeking His wisdom God will reveal to us if we are really being the people He wants us to become – if we are being the church – and from that, only good things can come.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” – James 1:17 (NIV)
Maria Dittmer is a single mom who currently goes to school and works at Feed My Starving Children. She says, “I’m not a blogger, but I am a deep thinker who’s always contemplating something,” and she’s passionate about justice and helping women.
She loves coffee, the sun (and being outside in it!), cooking, her kids, her friends, and – of course – Jesus.
"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." —Fred Rogers via @momentumdash
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"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Einstein