Several times each year, our church has its Sunday evening worship service with other area churches. Before the service, we greet old friends in the parking lot and squeeze together in the quickly-filling sanctuary. Meeting in a place that a recent study called “the most post-Christian city in America” our combined assembly is not particularly large, but it is always immensely encouraging.
Week-by-week, vastly outnumbered by our avowedly-secular neighbors, our individual churches can sometimes seem like minor oddities. But, every few months, for two hours on a Sunday evening, these scattered congregations gather. We sing together, pray together, confess our faith together, receive the Word together, and fellowship together. Together, we affirm that, though each local church may appear weak and solitary, we have never been—and will never be!—alone.
In the book of Acts, when Luke reports on the earliest spread of the gospel, he describes it as the growth of a single church: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31). Congregations assembled for worship in various locations in Judea and Galilee and Samaria. They were unique groups of specific people under the care of particular elders. But, seen together through the lens of Christ’s great redeeming work, they were “the church.”
In our local congregations, we are not just a few or a few hundred; we are part of something much, much bigger. We are part of the church…