Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

The Essential Church

by Matt McClay

If our eyes look a little tired when we wave to you during your exit of the church building on Sundays, the culprit for our fatigue is likely the fact that, as a staff, it is more challenging and taxing than ever to prepare for, facilitate, and debrief from our worship gatherings. Our facility’s staff works around the clock to clean before services, in between services, after services, and through the week. Our support staff works to master new technology, administrate ways to move forward in reopening various church ministries, and communicating the weekly changes to members through social media, email, videos, and printed materials. Our pastors call and visit members and prepare additional messages and devotionals to reach those who, due to extenuating circumstances brought about by the pandemic, still cannot gather with us in person.

Is it worth the extra effort to have worship gatherings on Sundays? If I know the hearts of our staff, I think we would all answer with a big, resounding, “YES!” After reopening on May 31, the richness of singing together, praying together, and taking in God’s Word together has been a salient reminder that church is not a building, but, rather, the people who gather in the building. We believe that church, properly defined as a called-out gathering of believers, is not only worth the extra effort but is essential during these tumultuous times.

This year has been full of ups and downs, leaving many wondering and looking to see what God is doing and where He is doing it. If you’re looking to see God at work in 2020, look no further than His church; His fingerprints are all over it! 1 Corinthians identifies the church as “The Body of Christ” and explains how God works through His church, reading, “You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27 ESV).

Consider these “essential” truths from 1 Corinthians about the Body of Christ…

1. Everyone has a place in the Body of Christ.

“But, as it is, God has arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” – 1 Corinthians 12:18

Just like pieces of a puzzle or parts of a body, no one member of the church is the same. While we believers share unity in the gospel and teachings of the Bible, each of us brings unique personalities, talents, backgrounds, and giftings. God takes our differences and arranges them, as only He can, into a beautiful mosaic of His grace. In the body of Christ, diversity among members is not just accepted, it’s necessary and should be celebrated! Whether you realize it or not, God has carved out a special place for you here at Lewis Memorial Baptist Church, and no one can fill that spot better than you. We need your personality quirks, your talents, your ideas, and your faithfulness to advance the gospel of Jesus together.

2. Unity is fiercely protected in the Body of Christ.

“But God has composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” – 1 Corinthians 12:24-25

In hindsight, we may very well evaluate the year 2020 as, culturally-speaking, the year of division. With such issues as responding to the Coronavirus, the election, and calls for social reforms taking center stage in the news and on social media, our country is, in many ways, more divided than we’ve ever been. In 1 Corinthians 12:25, believers are instructed to honor one another, “That there may be no division in the body.” If we do not exercise vigilant care, these cultural issues can creep into the church, causing disunity and diverting our focus from the mission of proclaiming the gospel. While diversity is a necessary component of a healthy church, the division is a disease within the body of Christ. As we move through November, we have the opportunity to demonstrate unity by rallying around the gospel, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye on the hot button issue du jour.

3. Gathering is essential in the Body of Christ.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26-27

Peanut butter and jelly, marshmallows and campfires, and macaroni and cheese all have one thing in common, they’re better together. As believers, we’re better together, too! This year has been challenging in the area of our togetherness as, for a period of time, we were required to quarantine, and now are asked to socially distance. Thankfully, we again have the opportunity to gather together with appropriate safety measures in place. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there is no substitute for experiencing the physical presence of others. This lesson is no more applicable than in the setting of a local church. 1 Corinthians instructs believers to suffer together and rejoice together. From day to day, week to week, and month to month, we all have experienced our fair share of suffering and rejoicing. We desperately need to assemble every week to suffer together and rejoice together. If you are not under the weather and do not have any preexisting health issues that prevent you from going shopping and dining out during this time, will you consider rejoining us for a Sunday gathering? We want to suffer and rejoice with you!

4. Love is a lifestyle in the Body of Christ.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

After explaining the inner workings of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul reminds Christians of the secret ingredient that transforms simple worship gatherings into something supernatural and eternal: love. Gathering as a church body is essential and unity is a necessity, but love “Binds us all together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14 NLT). It is not just enough that we gather. Our gatherings have to be defined by love: A mutual love for one another and a love for the Lord. We can follow the most stringent safety guidelines, have the best facilities, and sing the latest and greatest songs together while still missing the mark in being a God-honoring church. If we want to make an eternal impact for Jesus on each other and our world, we must love like Jesus. The Apostle Paul defined love this way: “Love is patient and kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). We are living in a time during which both of these attributes seem to be in short supply. If there has ever been a time when Christlike love among Christians is countercultural, it is today. Let us love one another for the long haul, making allowances for our shortcomings. Let us love generously, lavishing it on those of us who do not deserve it. Let us be sensitive toward the needs of others. Let us be quiet, steady givers of love in a world full of noisy “gongs!”
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