Humanly speaking my church is a small affair: ten of us meeting in an upper room with finances at an all time low and with a large number of people thinking that’s we should pack it in and give up. And my own response to this situation has been on my mind of late. Until recently I coped with the smallness of my church by taking it stoically on the chin. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the situation and I wanted it to be different but as I couldn’t leave with a clear conscience then there was nothing else to be done but man up and take the hit. As such my church was one of the few things in life that regularly depressed me.
Recently though I realized that this stoic attitude of mine does not glorify God in the slightest. There are many people who do what they find hard to do, there are many people who stoically plod on and persevere in difficult situations, stoicism is not an uncommon human trait. And whilst it is often a good trait to have I was reading ‘I Am Not Ashamed’ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and it occurred to me that there is a superior attitude to have, an attitude that does glorify God, an attitude that is cannot be obtained by any human doing but only through Jesus Christ. If Christianity is real and true, and it is, then it must offer something more than what can be achieved by mere humanity. That is to say, having Christ as my Saviour changes everything on such a profound level that there must be a better alternative to stoicism for stoicism has no hope, it perseveres but expects nothing, Christianity on the other hand offers hope, Christianity offers the ability to be more than a conquer.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him [Christ] who loved us.”
Romans 8 v 37
Notice how it says that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us, there is no maybe about it, so why then did I feel so defeated? If I was more than a conqueror why did I not feel like one? What was going on? The answer came to me as I was on the door of my church, it is a sorrowful thing to be on the door of a church for though you might welcome people in there are still oh so many who walk by and do not attend church. It was breaking my heart to see so many so lost and so unaware of their need and as I struggled with just feeling depressed about the whole thing this verse came to me and I realized that there was joy in my sorrow. And my joy was that Christ loved me and that I would be shortly meeting with him in fellowship with other believers. It did not lessen and doesn’t lessen my sorrow for those who walk by but it sets my heart on a greater hope, this is, Jesus Christ and his love.
It was only logical then that I applied this revelation to my wider feelings for the church. Listen my soul; I said to myself, why do you find yourself so downcast? Yes, you are small in number, yes you are weak, yes you despise and are often despised for your smallness and yes there have been many times when persevering has seemed too hard but what really matters? My soul, listen to me, do you still meet with Christ at church? You know you do, you find yourself warmed under his tender care, you find yourself rebuked under his mercy and you find yourself rejoicing under the sweetness of his love. My soul, you are foolish for you have lost sight of what really only and truly matters: the love of Christ. He meets with you still, more so, he deals so kindly with your church in your smallness, therefore, rejoice, more than conquer and allow yourself to be captured to the very essence of church.
“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”
Matthew 18 v 20
As Jesus himself promised, he is with us and so I realized that I had no ground for complaint against God, no ground to fear, no ground to feel despair, indeed, it was only when I realized how little my church’s smallness mattered that I began to hope that we might grow. These things I still wrestle with.
And now this thought has just occurred to me, I say that my church is small and weak and that is true on one level. But it is blatantly false on another. Bellevue is rich, rich beyond measure, for Jesus Christ meets with us. Against this there is nothing that matters, numbers, finances, lack of hall, it pales to a certain insignificance because Christ is there and thus we are wealthy indeed. For he loves us and he loves to meet with us and help us in our weakness. He knows that it is like to have just a few followers, he knows what it is like to meet in just an upper room, he knows what it like to be poor and he sympathises with us.
I do not know why we have been brought so low as a church except that perhaps it proves that old adage that it only when we lose everything that we realize that everything is to be found in Christ. I do not know the future of my church but I know that Christ loves us and I know that he will always meet with us, he will never leave, he will never despise, he will always delight in us because his is a love rich in mercy and kindness.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8 v 38 – 39
It was not enough to stoically accept my church’s smallness. It was not enough to grit my teeth; I had to be able to smile. It was not enough to plod; I needed to fly. It was not enough to conquer; I had to more than conquer. And I couldn’t do this until I gazed afresh on the love of my God and saw that a church’s wealth lies not in people, money, influence or building but in faith and trust and Christ. At my church I still meet with Christ, that is enough, that is everything. Jesus Christ, my Saviour and King, loves us with an everlasting love that is always upon us and every Sunday he ministers to our souls.
Having learnt all this the challenge is to remember it. This challenge I will fail at and there will be times when I still despair and give up on hope but when that happens and if you see me downcast then remind me that I am more than a conqueror through Christ who loves me, remind me of the love of Christ and remind me that he meets with us and nothing else beyond that really matters.