I have been blessed to be the pastor of this loving church for the past 5 years. And I have to say that after 5 years, I love my church (aka the people) now more than ever. They have been so gracious to me and my family. They have taught me so much. They have allowed me to grow. They have loved me. And because of that, I want to take just a minute to share 5 reasons why I love my church so much.
1. Loving God and Loving People is a priority
Never once has anyone complained about the mounds of clothes in the fellowship hall on Sundays, or about the fact that the youth have rearranged the chairs in the sanctuary, or that the music isn't their style, or that the kids are moving around too much during the service (ok, maybe I've complained about that once or twice, but I always do it from the pulpit in my mean teacher voice), or about the fact that some people don't know exactly what to do when they come to our services. And do you want to know the reason that no one complains? It's because our church has made loving God and loving people a priority. You see, the mounds of clothes are about reaching people who are in need, the youth have rearranged the chairs so they can learn more about God, and the music comes from our hearts. You see, our church realizes that kids moving around in service means that the next generation is being reached for the gospel, and new people who don't exactly know what to do are new people who we have a chance to share the love of Christ with. The priority isn't the building or the worship style or the presentation or anything else. The priority is loving God and loving people.
2. We are diverse
Ok, so I know that being "diverse" is the in term right now in a lot of churches (and I think it should be - this Gospel is for everybody), but the thing I really love about our church is that it always has been diverse. I don't think there was ever a goal or vision to make the church diverse - I think it just kind of happened, and I'm glad it did. On any given Sunday, you will see people of all colors in our classes and in our sanctuary. You will see rich and poor. You will see educated and uneducated. You will see people from all walks of life. We are diverse, and I love my church all the more because of it.
3. We are real
Christians have a bad habit of putting on masks. We are very good at pretending to be something we aren't. We are very good at looking like we have it all together on the outside while we are dying on the inside. And no doubt, sometimes that happens at the Mission, but more often than not people are real. People are real about their struggles. They are open about their hurts and their desires. Prayer requests often pertain to individuals who are struggling with their faith, with addictions, and with real problems. Maybe no one's ever told our church it needs to act differently - no one needs to. Because for better or for worse, we are real with each other and real with God.
4. We aren't just trying to reach the outcast, we are the outcast
Have you ever been on a Mission trip to reach the poor? Or the "inner-city"? Or the outcast? Or the ____________ (insert whatever term fits)? So have I, and those trips are great. They are needed. We love partnering with churches to reach those groups! But the thing I love about our church is that we are the outcasts. We are the poor. We are the inner city. We are the people a lot of churches are trying to reach. And it is perhaps the most unique experience of my life to see a group of outcasts and misfits (I include myself in that group) growing together in Christ.
5. I can be myself
Perhaps the thing I love most about my church is that they have let me (and my family) be myself. They don't expect me to be someone who I'm not. They don't expect me to be Billy Graham or Rick Warren or even the pastor down the street. It's ok that we're not growing as fast as other churches or that I'm not preaching the way other preachers do. My church has just loved and accepted me. And the awesome thing is they are like that towards everyone. Our church doesn't ask anyone to do anything except to follow Christ and grow in Him as best they can. We understand that sometimes it's hard and that sometimes we fail, but we also understand what it means to be there for each other. We understand what it means to forgive. We understand what it means to love. We understand what it means to be ourself.
So there you have it. . . those are the 5 reasons I love my church. Now don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say our church is better than any other church or that we have it all together (Lord knows that isn't true). But I just wanted to take time to reflect and share. I think it's something that every Christian should do. It proves to be very rewarding. So if you get a minute today, take the time to make a list of why you love your church. Think about the good things. Think about the positives. If you are like me, it will make you look forward to going to church this Sunday.