On Sunday, Pastor Marc preached about the importance of gathering together. We gather together so that we don’t forget who we are, whose we are, how we are to live, and where we are going. We gather together so that we don’t forget our purpose. Gathering together helps us find our voice.
Like an animal that gets separated from the herd, when we are apart from the body of Christ we are vulnerable to secular voices, and easily deceived by secular agendas. Eventually we experience emotional distancing, and spiritual anemia. When we disconnect from the church, our faith grows cold.
We live in a confusing, disconcerting, and disorienting time—and the world has never been in greater need of a strong church. Our situation is not unique. The church at Rome was quite diverse. Its members were Jews and Gentiles. Slaves and free. Rich and poor. Strong and weak. Liberal and conservative. It wasn’t easy for the members of this church to come together. So what does a strong church look like?
In chapter 15 of his letter to the Roman church, the apostle Paul profiles the attributes of a strong church:
A place of refuge, where people find help (v. 1)
A place of instruction, where people’s faith and lives are built up (v. 2)
A place centered on Christ, where Jesus is held up as a model (v. 3)
A place filled with the Word, where the Scriptures are made known, and applied (v. 4)
A place of prayer, where people seek endurance and encouragement from God (vv. 4-5)
A place of acceptance, where there is an atmosphere of hope (vv. 4, 7)
A place of togetherness, where unity is recognized as a product of God’s work (vv. 5-6)
A place of witness, where acceptance of others is Christ-like (v. 8)
Paul concludes with a benediction for this section in verse 13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The hope we have in such a disquieting time does not come from our own senses or experience. Hope comes as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us as the body of Christ. When we gather together, we have joy anticipating what God has in store for us, and peace as we rest in the assurance that God will do what he has promised.
Prayer: Lord, help us day by day to become the strong church the world needs, so that we might offer your joy and your peace to others.