I attend a Biblical Christian church with a Sunday morning attendance of just over 100. We are made up of sinners seeking fellowship, education and accountability by choosing to meet together for regular worship. Yesterday we had a baptism.
We recently added a new member. He was a homeless man in his early 60s who started coming to our fellowship based on an impromptu conversation with one of our members at a fast-food restaurant a few months ago. Since then, our pastor has been meeting with him, offering personal study from God’s Word.
A River Baptism
This past Sunday, we had a baptism. It was a chilly (45 deg) and windy day; but this man was determined to be baptized, not in our comfortable, warm church, but in a cold river. Our pastor complied, dawning his waders for the event.
After our regular church services ended, about 60 of us drove over to the river a few miles away and watched as this gentleman was asked a few theological questions by the pastor, followed by a brief prayer, and then was immersed in the cold river. In a matter of minutes they were headed toward the muddy/sandy bank which was thick and deep. Both he and our pastor nearly fell over as they went arm-in-arm, trying to climb out.
On the shore, as we clapped and congratulated, the man asked if he could make a brief statement. We all went silent and he said how much he appreciated our member for talking with him at the restaurant, how she and others provided food and help in finding him a temporary place to live while he got back on his feet, and for our pastor who invested time in deepening his understanding of who God is. Honestly, many of us were cold and could not get close enough to hear everything he said as he stood on the bank, dripping. His voice was soft and his words were labored but the one thing he spoke that was loud and clear was that we were his “family”, in Christ. The “church” affirmed that statement as many gathered around him to hug and encourage.
What is Church
Many in this world are deconstructing their faith. The first step is to question the Bible’s authority, then God’s authority, then the church’s relevance and value. As I have offered more times than I can count, the “church” is nothing more than a group of sinners meeting together for fellowship and accountability. The word “church” has no meaning because it can include everything from the Satanic Temple to a Southern Baptist one-room building out in the country. What does matter is what is taught and Who is worshiped by INDIVIDUALS who choose to form a group for that purpose. Often, the worst behavior of one becomes the basis for generalizations and a target for haters determined to undermine us all.
Last Sunday, my “church” was a group of sinful believers celebrating the salvation of someone who had crossed over from eternal death to everlasting life. Our new member chose to be immersed in a river. But that didn’t matter. In fact, baptism is only a symbolic obedience to God for a salvation that has already taken place.
What Really Matters
What matters is that a member of our “church” took the time to build a relationship with an unbeliever, that he was drawn to God, and that our pastor (and others, I’m sure) offered the eternal hope that only Jesus Christ can provide. Finally, the majority of the church came out to see the results of that planting, watering, and harvest… at the river.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth… For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
That is the definition of the “church” that God calls us to be. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail but either way, it changes nothing in God’s economy.