I have spent my entire life as part of a local Church. My parents attended a small local Church until I was five years old. Then we transferred to another Church where we remained until I went to college. Since then I have led six different congregations while attending dozens of others. I not only lead, but I am deeply connected to the local Church. I love it, and its people and I am glad to have spent time with some of these wonderful people.
There are a couple of things that have surprised me about the Church through the years.
1. Many Christians are Fiercely Independent. I know the Bible often refers to believers as sheep. This metaphor might lead you to believe that its members are quietly following Jesus without questions or any exercise of their will. I have found the exact opposite is true. Church people are often strong-willed, heavily opinionated, and constantly questioning. They settle into a set way of doing things and stand up to anyone who brings change.
I thought leading a Church would be like leading sheep and it became more like herding cats. Though their independence they become God’s unique creation. While stubborn, most of them are wonderful people. They love deeply, give generously and serve selflessly in the name of Jesus.
2. They Gather to Listen But Seldom Hear. I believe God created me to be a public speaker. When I was in the 5th grade, I wrote a speech and ended up going to teach a lesson in every class in our elementary school. God has molded me since I was little to stand up and speak to groups of people in a way they could understand. This gift led me to the role of the preacher in the local Church. Each week I present a lesson from the Bible and then wait to see results. At first, it surprised me of how little people heard of my well-crafted sermons.
One Sunday I preached a sermon and used a powerful illustration at the end of Satan and all the demons of hell. The next Sunday as people were leaving Church a lady caught me and said, “I heard a TV preacher give a great illustration using Satan this week.” She then proceeded to give me about one-third of what I had said the week before. When she finished, she smiled and said, “You can use that someday.” This is just one of a thousand times my own words have been repeated back to me with mistakes, half quotes, and misunderstood lessons. Yet, through all of the distorted words and mixed signals, people still manage to grow. Each week I am reminded that God does the work of taking my words and pouring them into people’s hearts to somehow bring growth.
Early in life, I dreamed of one day leading a local Church. I would be this powerful orator who could command respect as people hung on my every word. The Church where I preached would grow continually as people’s lives were changed and inspired to “go into all the world.” Then I went into ministry to find people who smile and nod throughout my sermon and then do whatever they want.
Then one day a truth hit me like never before: this is the Lord’s Church. He is the one who calls this group of misfits together. He is the one who is molding them through his word. He is in charge and leading these individuals somewhere as a group.
The Church has never been assembled to worship a preacher and follow him without question – that is a cult. A Church is a group of individuals seeking God’s guidance together. My role is to partner with God to help him accomplish his mission in everyone’s life. That is your role too.