SHARON ROCKWELL | GUEST My husband and I recently attended the 34th Annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in our small town. Several hundred people gathered to pray for our nation, our state, and our city. We watched our area Explorers and the Pipes and Drum Ensemble post the Colors and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. We acknowledged those in local leadership and first responder roles, and we listened to our public high school sing both hymns and patriotic music. Several community pastors read Bible passages and led us in prayer. It was a deeply moving time to come together with those who live side by side with us, who may attend different churches, who may disagree on the need for masks, and who may be on the opposite side politically. But none of that mattered. For the few hours we were together praying, we were in one accord. I was reminded of the story of the early church. After Christ’s resurrection, He returned to present Himself alive to the apostles. He offered many proofs that He was alive, appearing to them for forty days and speaking to them about the kingdom of God. The apostles were undoubtedly excited to spread the news of what they had seen and heard. But Jesus commanded them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit to come. After this commandment, Jesus was lifted up into a cloud and taken from their sight. Acts 1:12-14 records their obedience, “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” The crowd totaled about 120 people. Later, after Pentecost and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the church grew as 3,000 were baptized and continued in prayer and thanksgiving.
Have you ever longed to come alongside a [...]
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...
Do you believe that "we" is better than [...]