In late 2003 I was getting ready to graduate from college and, like many people graduating from college, I had no idea what was next. I was on a phone call with a friend I met several months earlier at a mission base in Montana when he offered me a paid internship doing youth ministry at a church in Colorado. At the time I was leading a few ministry groups and had been considering youth ministry, so I thought it sounded like a good idea. What I was not sure about was the other part of his plan. He suggested that I work for the church while beginning to study at Denver Seminary. I’ve always been a learner, but at that point I was ready to be done with my formal education or at least take a break from it. My friend was pretty confident it would be a good move for me and asked me to pray about it. I agreed.
Three or four days after that first phone call, I called my friend back and told him that God had changed my mind and I believed He was calling me to begin seminary. There was one caveat though; I was not going to pursue a pastoral degree. I would work toward a master’s in cross-cultural studies or organizational leadership and consider something with a para-church ministry—an organization that works alongside churches, but is not a church, such as a missions sending agency or an evangelistic campaign. I would serve in a church for a few years, but I thought the real ministry was elsewhere and I wanted to be where the action was. As soon as I began seminary, I realized how wrong I had been.
Although a number of things convinced me of the place and power of the Church, ultimately, it was reading Scripture that showed me how much God loves His Church and how every hope He has for the world is rooted in gathering a people united for His glory with Christ as their head. God’s Word convicted me that the plan and purpose of God is the Church and, therefore, that has always been and it will always be where the action is. The Church is the chosen people of God (Eph. 1:4), bought, cherished, and protected by Christ (Eph. 5:29) with Him as its head (Col. 1:18). When I began to understand that—and after another conversation with my friend—I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with the Church. I changed my degree track and my life has never been the same.
I love the Church, but more importantly, God loves the Church. It is His chosen vessel for declaring His glory to all the people of the world. It is also His chosen means of protection, encouragement, and growth for followers of Jesus. The very first thing that God leads many of the first worshippers of Jesus to do is plant churches, appoint elders, and strengthen local bodies of Christ-followers. That is why I believe that every Christian is called by God to be part of a local church.
When a local church looks and acts like the Bible says it should there is nothing like it in the universe. The Bible says a church is a covenant community called by God, formed by the Gospel, making the good news of Jesus Christ visible to people everywhere. When I hear those words, I want to stand up and scream, “Yes! I want that!” It’s what the Apostles started, it’s what faithful brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the centuries have preserved, and it is what the world desperately needs.
Over the next six weeks, I am going to preach messages from God’s Word on what the Church is, who she is called to be, and how we, as a church family, can more faithfully and powerfully declare the glory of God by being a covenant community shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These will be critical messages in the life of our church. Each week will be important for our current work and future directions. I hope you will make it a priority to join your church family as we glorify God and ask Him to form us into the people He is calling us to be.
I love the Church and I love our church! I am excited for these next six weeks. But God’s love for His Church is far beyond mine. I am asking Him to show us His heart and will for us through His Word as we sing, pray, and preach for the renown of His name. Let us join together in this as the people of God, shaped by the Gospel, making visible the good news of Jesus Christ.
For the sake of His name,