It’s been rewarding to knock on doors in Pflugerville and talk to people. Some people are willing to spend a little time sharing what they are looking for in a church. And they graciously allow me to tell them about mine.
So I imagined what the conversation would be like if I knocked on a door, and Jesus answered, and I got the chance to talk to him about church. What would he be looking for? Would he join my church?
One of the New Testament books of the Bible—Ephesians—says a lot about church life. Its main message is this: Church is much more about Jesus and his gifts to us than about us and our needs.
Don’t get me wrong. Through the church, Jesus fills a lot of people’s needs. But there is often a difference between what I want the church to do and what Jesus needs the church to do. Consider these:
GOD’S GRACE—Like everyone on this planet, especially in America, we are consumers. And we have choices about IOS or Android, paper or plastic, dine-in or delivery. We like to have choices about church, too. But the most important choice for our lives isn’t one that we make, but one that God makes. He chooses to love, save and forgive people who don’t deserve it.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). Jesus would join a church that prioritizes and preaches God’s saving grace. When you find this kind of church, it is a gift of Jesus to you much more than you are a gift to it.
OUR GROUP—Jesus has existed in eternity, along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, as a three-in-one God. He wants church to be a community, a family, a group united in spiritual harmony. Discover the strength, warmth, and hope of a group of friends at church, like a family.
As a church, believers are “fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19,20).
MY GROWTH—Church is like a hospital. You can come here to recover, to find healing. Church is like a gym. You can come here and become better fit for life. Church is like a school. You can come here and learn more about God, how to pray, and what the Bible says about parenting.
Jesus loves spiritual building projects that take place in every person’s heart, faith and life, “being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).
AND GRIT—Life is hard. Sometimes harder than we’d like. Where do you find the street smarts to know what to do, and the strength to do it? How do you deal with your bad habits and hangups? Jesus wants church to toughen you up, to give you a grit—spiritual resiliency—to bend but not break.
The apostle Paul, who wrote Ephesians as a letter from prison, courageously states, “I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles … ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you” (Ephesians 3:1,13). If you find it hard to serve or sing or contribute or converse at your church, it can be a good thing. Jesus may be teaching you grit.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, you bless people through the church, and want church to be a blessing to me. Guide me to enjoy a church that offers what is important to you, by making it important to me. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Paul prays for the church in Ephesians 3:14-21. Read these words carefully, and ask Jesus to help you find the four features outlined above—grace, group, growth and grit. Where do these appear in Paul’s prayer? What is Paul asking for, in prayer, about each? Repeat or paraphrase his prayer, and make it your own.