|The Early Christian Church was Marked with Love.|
Friday, May 27, 2011
Strong Churches, Weak Churches
No church is a perfect church. But what do you do when things seem severely less than perfect?
(By Unknown Illustrator, www.artbible.net)
Mary and I saw problems as we strived to serve one church ministry. We labored and toiled to affect this ministry, but as the months passed on, most results seemed hopelessly futile. We could not please the people no matter how we tried. The congregation's agendas were very different from our own.
A ministry's true condition will ultimately reflect in its finances. That's where you meet weakness, failure, and problems head-on. However, the main point is, God did not leave us in the face of these tribulations. He worked with us. Wonderfully, a few Christians responded to grace and stepped forward to help us.
For one, a retired couple in the town noticed our low salary levels and supplemented our monthly income with a personal gift. This couple's generosity blessed us month after month as we worked through our trials. They were a very gentle couple, and unknown to others, they determined to help.
Praying the Money in.
I resolved, most of all, to pay our modest monthly payroll with God's help on time. I felt it would be unfair to have our self-sacrificing staff miss a paycheck. Well, I learned to work together with God. I found myself with no other recourse than to pray the money in. Invariably, payday after payday, the ministry checks arrived in the last nick of time.
Up and down I would pace the institution's hallways praying for hours "storming heaven's gates," spiritually commanding the checks to come in. Pentecostals call this "praying through." I found out it works. Sometimes, the funds totaled the day before payday. Sometimes, the checks arrived in the evening when people drove by and noticed the lights still on. Sometimes, the money wouldn't arrive until that very payday morning. God tested my faith. But payday after payday, month by month, I prayed the receipts in.
Never did the Funds fail to total.
The miracle was this. Never, ever, did the funds fail to total so I could pay the staff on time. God never failed me, not even once. I learned how faithful God is in answering prayer.
There was one family that shone with the extreme light of kindness and love. In my most solitary and lonely times when I was most discouraged, this bright, cheerful woman would unexplainably show up with her daughter, her son, or her gentle, executive husband to share wise advice or a cheerful word. She was a beautiful angel who came at the dreariest of times. Each time, my face and heart warmed from her Godly love as she departed her visit.
She'd cast Love as a force.
Her children and her husband always wore joyous eyes, blessed with this amazing kindness. She'd cast love as a force and leave it clinging to my person as she left. I knew God sent her each time.
"By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35 NIV)."
Yes, there are healthy churches and there are sick churches, and there are churches somewhere in between. The two great commandments give us the first standard of measure, love. I remember our favorite small churches and our favorite large churches. Great love supernaturally marked these.
Like Early New Testament churches, some churches we served were small home churches and some were large like Antioch and Jerusalem. These churches built on the manifestations of the person of the Holy Spirit. They functioned in the fruits, gifts, and ministries. I experienced the building of the Body of Christ as the work of the Holy Spirit.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4: 3-6 NIV).
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