Thank You, Church. Thank You.
As we near the end of a strange and challenging, yet grace-filled 2020, I have been reflecting on many things I am thankful for. One of the things that pops up continually in my mind these days is the kindness, godliness, and faithfulness so many Christ-followers have shown their local church over the past 10 months. To be honest, the thought of it brings me tears of joy.
And I'm not only thinking about the faithful men and women, boys and girls in my own local church, but faithful men and women, boys and girls in local churches all over our city, nation, and world.
I love the local church. I love it. I believe in it. I believe the local church is God's primary tool to form and mature followers of Christ, empowering them to penetrate a dark world with the hope and light of the Gospel. There is nothing like it this side of heaven. The local church is not a burden, it is a blessing. It is not to be beat up on, but nurtured and cared for. The local church is to be cherished and committed to, through good and bad, thick and thin. The local church is beautiful. It is truly beautiful. And God has used the local church in magnificent ways for His glory over the course of 2020.
While this past year has shown us some of the worst that our sin-Full, rigid, self-absorbed, me-focused hearts can bring, we have also been witness to the God-honoring beauty that is found when the body of Christ displays Jesus-like, selfless, others-focused, joy-filled love, care and patience. Jesus spoke the truth when he said in John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The world has seen countless examples of what true Christian discipleship looks like in 2020 as this supernatural love has been put on display in a million different ways, both large and small.
Sure, the critical and cynical among us might quickly jump in and point out all the ways the Church has failed, all the ways that Christians have fallen short. And they would be right. I agree with them fully. The Church is not perfect and every Christian falls short. I know this all too well each time I look in the mirror. But this is why we as disciples of Christ rejoice in the Gospel of grace. This is why we trust in our Savior, Jesus, who is not like us...He is the perfect One.
He is our salvation.
He is our hope.
He is our rest.
He is our joy.
He is our assurance.
He is our Deliverer
He is our King.
And He has saved an imperfect people for Himself, conforming them to His image and using them for His good purposes in the world.
These are His people.
This is His body.
This is His Church.
I love His Church. For the past 23 years, I have been blessed to serve as a local church pastor. With all of its joys and all of its heartaches, I love it. But I will tell you, 2020 has been a tough one for pastors. Over the past 10 months I have had pastor friends quit ministry out of deep, deep discouragement. I have seen others let go because their church ran out of money, unable to pay them anymore. I know of pastors who have resigned because their wives couldn't take another day of their husband being unfairly criticized as they tried their best to lead through a pandemic. Some have failed morally, while others have stopped believing in God altogether. I know of several pastors who have taken their own lives this past year. Heartbreaking.
Needless to say, this has been an especially difficult time for many pastors.
I share all of this as a way to highlight what a true gift faithful, caring, committed church members are, not only to us pastors, but to our entire congregations.
This is why I want to say thank you.
Thank you, Church. Thank you.
I speak not only for myself, but for every other pastor I know. In a year where we have seen many folks drift from our congregations for a number of different reasons, I am so thankful for the LARGE majority of believers who have stayed faithfully committed to their local church during one of the most difficult and challenging seasons any of us have had to endure.
I am writing this to thank YOU.
Thank you, faithful brothers and sisters. Thank you.
Thank you for praying. Thank you for praying for the lost, for the hurting, for the broken. Thank you for praying for your church, for churches in your city, for new church plants and replants that have been launched in 2020. Thank you for praying for your pastors and their families. Thank you for praying when no one was watching but God Himself. He has used your prayers in ways you may never know (Matt. 6:6).
Thank you for checking in on others in your congregation, just to let them know you care and are thinking of them. It makes a difference. For some people, it absolutely makes their day. Thank you for not assuming people are doing OK, but making the call or sending the text just to make sure (1 Thes. 5:11).
Thank you for prioritizing weekly, congregational worship, either from your home online or live at your church building. Yep...it's been weird for all of us. Really weird. But thank you for looking beyond the weirdness and demonstrating what Christians have done throughout the centuries in much more difficult times than these... choosing to worship week-in and week-out with your brothers and sisters in Christ, in any and all circumstances (Heb.10:24-25).
Thank you for faithfully and cheerfully giving of your tithes and offerings to help your church's mission continue. Though money has been much tighter for many of us, you have trusted the Lord and walked by faith. You have given up many things you enjoy this year in order to continue faithfully giving of your tithes and offerings to your local church. The Lord sees and He is pleased (2 Cor. 9:7).
Thank you for supporting and following the leadership of your pastors and church staff as they seek to do the best they can in this unprecedented time. I can tell you, your pastor never took a class called, "Leading your Church through a Pandemic" in seminary! Whether through online prayer meetings and classes, outdoor worship gatherings, outside the box outreach programs, whatever it might be, thank you for intentionally and proactively staying engaged and involved with your church. Thank you for being a TEAM PLAYER. Thank you for showing up! I know this: Many people can talk a big game when it comes to loving and being committed to a local church. Here's what I know, you have demonstrated what faithful church membership really looks like when it isn't easy. Your actions have spoken loudly. I know it takes work. It takes time. It takes sacrifice. It isn't easy to be a faithful church member right now. It is far easier to not stay engaged. But you have fought to stay connected and you have been a blessing to so many. Thank you for putting forth the effort to stay involved (Heb. 13:17).
Thank you for volunteering in ways you never have before, in order to serve others in your church. You never thought you would help with kid's ministry, tech ministry, or serve on a "sterilizing team," but this year you did it, and you did it well! Thank you for showing us what servant leadership really looks like (1 Pet. 4:10)!
Well, I could go on and on and on...
My point is this: Thank you, Church, thank you!
Sincerely. Thank you.
While not one of us knows what 2021 will hold, we do know Who holds 2021.
And because of this, may we trust our good, gracious, sovereign Lord in all things. May we love one another, pray for one another, serve one another, build up one another, and stay connected to one another for the sake of Christ, the Gospel, and the lost world around us.
May we be the Church. By the grace and power of God, may we be the Church.
Be glorified in us, Lord. Be glorified.