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From his column Pressing On

pressing-on-01-14-1I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God [i]

Being a product of the church in the late 80s and early 90s, I recall singing this chorus on what must have been every Sunday. While it doesn’t carry great theological heft, this simple song still stirs something deep inside of me. The truth is: I love the church. It isn’t hip to declare love for church these days. The current thing is to show ambivalence or even contempt, and this isn’t the mindset just for those outside the family of God. Many who profess faith in Jesus display disregard toward the church today. Yes, I am glad to be a part of the family of God, and, no, I’m not hip. It’s okay. I never have been.

It began when I was 10 years old—the oldest of 3 kids to a single mother. We were broken in more ways than we realized. A local Church of the Nazarene in Clarksville, Tennessee, sought us, welcomed us, and loved us toward wholeness and healing. Jesus saved me. But His saving work did not come to me apart from the church.

In the years following, it was the church who raised me. It was the church who formed me. It was the church who named my calling before I could. It was the church who equipped and sent me. And during stretches of my life when I tried to let go of the church, it was the church who held onto me.

Time and time again, the church has given me the gift of friendship. Over the course of my years, the church has supplied “joint heirs” who have taught me what it means to love and how love works among Christ-followers. And the church has provided my best friends, including my wife.

The church has educated me, both formally and informally. The church has offered mentors and models for holy living along the way. When it came time to choose a college and seminary, I did not struggle. It simply seemed right to give myself to the church for my formal education. I studied ministry at one of the church’s colleges and then attended the church’s seminary. My college and seminary experience shaped me theologically and prepared me well for the pastorate. Then, when I entered pastoral ministry, far from fully formed, it was the local church itself who taught me how to pastor, love, and lead them. My experience in ministry has been, in some ways, like my marriage. My wife teaches me how to be a husband. And the church teaches me how to be a pastor.

Today, the church sustains me. Not only does the church provide financially for my family, but the church feeds my soul, corrects my waywardness, refines my theology, and directs my energies. And there are times when my church pastors their pastor. My story cannot be told apart from the family of God.

The love I have for the church is not the sappy, sentimental type. I am not blind to its blemishes; I’m aware of its faults and failures. When the church is at its worst, it doesn’t look much different than the world. It can be stingy and self-focused. It can be petty and divided. It can be unbending and downright sinful. Yet, even when the church falls short, she remains the bride of our Lord Jesus. She is His choice. When the church is less than faithful, there is no other option. There is no alternative to the church. God, in Christ, has chosen the church—not only to be the object of his love, but also to bear His love. When we are at our best, we embody His transforming love to a broken world.

I choose the church. Not because it is easy or faultless or always satisfying. I choose the church because God has chosen it and because God has chosen me through the church. And that is why I am so glad to be part of the family of God.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee. He is the author of Shift: How Nine Churches Experienced Vibrant Renewal.

[i]The Family of God. Copyright © 1970 (renewed) William J. Gaither, Inc. ASCAP. All rights controlled by Gaither Copyright Management. All rights reserved.

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