Out of the Abundance of the Heart: Let’s Be Church

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

raymundoI had an unusual experience in church last week. We were in a small church in Hermosillo, Sonora. It took us a bit to find it, the road was pretty rough and rutted, dirt and rocks after several days of hard rain. My vehicle was one of two parked out front. The little room was full (about 30 adults) with a few outside on the porch (windows and door open, no problem) There was one visiting pastor with a guitar, one tambourine right behind me, one swamp cooler with no water, and the amazing presence of God.

As we began to worship, I was initially struck by just how loud the singing was. You could hear the church worship their God. The pastor leading worship had enough sense to back off and let them sing. I sensed God’s presence very powerfully, like a holy glow descending over me. I began to weep. Two thoughts kept running through my mind: “It is a privilege to be here.” And “This is what the Lord had in mind when He started the Church.” After church I kept rehashing those thoughts and that service. What was it that touched me so profoundly? (I’ve been in lots of wonderful church services, but for me, this was different, holy, precious) I can’t really find words, but here is my attempt to quantify the infinite. There was:

· A pastor who actively loves his people: This guy was out front waving us in. He glowed. Every person got a smile and a touch. When he opened the service, you could just tell: he loves us. Acts 20:28 / 1 Peter 5:2-3

· Diversity and unity: The “crowd” was fascinating. There were people dressed in such a way as to be comfortable in any suburban church. There were family groups. There were several who were obviously living on the street, male and female. Some were Honduran immigrants. In all, there was a camaraderie and a joy in being together to worship and fellowship. Galatians 3:26-28

· A community feel: The majority of the people walked to get there. They were part of the larger community around them. This was a representation of Christ in the midst of real life, not a performance done in a distant theater. Luke 14:21-23

· A heart to worship: The expectation of the people was not that they would be entertained. They came to worship and learn. I’m pretty sure I could hear Jesus singing with us. He said He would, you know. Hebrews 2:11-13

Somebody Said: “Many churches of all persuasions are hiring research agencies to poll neighborhoods, asking what kind of church they prefer. Then the local churches design themselves to fit the desires of the people. True faith in God that demands selflessness is being replaced by trendy religion that serves the selfish.” Billy Graham

Scripture Reading: O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. (Psalms 63:1-4 NKJV)

Here’s the Point: I am blessed to have been in many different churches in many different places. There is always the sense that I am part of the family of God, and we all have a common hope. There are many expressions of worship and different methods for doing church. This particular Sunday simply made me aware of how important it is that we start with God’s purpose for our gatherings and work form there. Why did He tell us to come together? How does our service serve that end? Can I say, “Wow, this is what Jesus had in mind.”

Virgil Stokes

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