The ecclesiology (the theology of church) in most of the western world can be summed up in this phrase, "go to church." The ecclesiology of the Bible can be summed up in this phrase "be the Church." The difference is enormous. Going to church is a very low commitment. In our society churches work very hard to make "going to church" easy and exciting, which I think is great. There are countless people out there than need church to be an easy and welcoming step back to God. The danger is, however, that we confuse the vision of the Church (universal) as God would see it and the natural tendency we have to define the Church in our own terms.
The Church (universal) at its core identifies people unified by their saving faith in Jesus Christ and their obedience to the truth of scripture. Every local church (lowercase "c") should be a smaller unit of a larger whole understood as the Church (capital "C") sometimes called the "universal Church." The gathering together part is a discipline of God's Church and should be present in every local church. Unfortunately, the gathering itself often creates confusion. We inevitably start to think that showing up on Sunday defines what "Church" is all about. It truly is a goofy mistake. It's like thinking the only time you are a family is when you are at home gathered around the dinner table. I'm part of my family everywhere I go! I am linked biologically...like it or not. This is the truth about the Christian Church, the difference here is we are linked spiritually...like it or not. The members of God's Church are a spiritual family which comes with a commitment stretching far beyond a weekly gathering.
This week I have experienced what I believe God really meant when He built His Church. My son's unexpected hospital stay created a wave of activity that has us blown away. Instead of going to church, the Church came to us. Our family has effectively been "at church" all week. People who genuinely love us have come out of the woodwork to bring us food, deliver coffee, write us notes of encouragement, deliver coffee, offer to keep our other children, run errands, deliver coffee, pool money to buy us stuff, share our news with friends, deliver coffee and pray fervently as if my son was their own. We experienced the Church as the Bible defines it!
It would be impossible for us to remember every person who has ministered to us this week and in the days to come. We say as Paul said to the church in Philippi, "I thank my God every time I remember you" (Philippians 1:3). We are so grateful for you. It's one thing to be cared for personally, it's another when someone cares for my children. You have loved and prayed for my son. I often think of Cooper as one of the "least of these" Jesus talks about in Matthew 25. We have prayed since Cooper was born that God would surround Cooper with people who show him mercy and grace. Literally, thousands of people have offered love and prayers for Cooper. I believe Jesus would say you are blessed because what you have done for Cooper, you have done for Him. You have been the Church for the glory of Christ!
We have never been more honored and humbled to be part of God's great Church! We are privileged to be part of Highpoint Church in Memphis, TN and love gathering to worshipping under the leadership of Josh Maze and either teaching the sermon myself or sitting under the teaching of Chris Conlee. We love seeing friends and watching God work in people's lives. Tomorrow, we will be sitting in the CVICU at LeBonheur Children's Hospital "missing church" yet not missing Church at all.
Cooper Update: God continues to answer prayer! Cooper had a much needed good day. There were three big objectives today - remove his chest tubes, change out his wound dressing and extubate the breathing tube. All three were accomplished by lunchtime. One chest tube was left but that's ok. Cooper was very groggy most of the day but did well coming off the breathing tube. He took a few sips of pedialyte. I know he is still terribly uncomfortable. He squirmed a little but we were able to keep him fairly calm. He didn't rip anything out of his body...yet.
How you can pray...
1. Pray that we have a restful night tonight.
2. Pray for Cooper to have a supernatural sense of calm and patience with this process.
3. Pray that each day Cooper makes great strides in healing up - particularly his breastbone and the infection - so we can go home! 4. Pray for Cooper's brothers - it's been a week now away from us and not at home.
Feel free to share your prayers, encouragements and comments to this post.
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