Friday was a pretty regular kind of day. But as I neared the end of it, I realized that I had depended on my family in the Lord for my regular-kind-of-day maintenance. I thanked God for being part of His family and realized that it’s true….I count on my spiritual family to a much greater degree than I do my physical family.
Someone from a congregation in Jackson, Tennessee hosted me for my breakfast. Then I headed home and, when about halfway home, I had a flat tire. I called on someone from a congregation in Huntsville, Alabama (who I knew would be passing me on that highway), to see if he could stop and give me a hand. But that person knew someone from a congregation in Tuscumbia, Alabama who was only five minutes away and that local Christian was right there where I was in about ten minutes. Then I came on toward home, but stopped into a church secretary’s office in Decatur, Alabama to retrieve items left at a camp and returned to me from a congregation in Winchester, Tennessee. My friend in that Winchester church had sent them through a brother in the Decatur church. I came on home and got the cabin ready for some of the sweetest people on the planet from another congregation that’s dear to my heart in Salem, Virginia. In the meantime, I had a little help from someone else who was from a second church in Huntsville, Alabama.
I had help from folks in six churches that day and, though I was thankful, I didn’t even count it a particularly unusual blessing. I take the family for granted, sometimes, but I shouldn’t. I thank God that I am in a family.
And the comforting thing is, all of those people with whom I was interacting, were also busily involved with other people in the same family of God. The family where I was eating breakfast showed me a curriculum they were making that will serve thousands of people in hundreds of congregations. The person I called on when I realized my tire was flat was returning home from a camp where he and his wife had influenced young people from scores of congregations all over the United States. The person from the congregation in Tuscumbia was on his way to Oklahoma to visit a college campus and he spoke to me about the congregation with which they would worship on Sunday. I know folks from that Oklahoma church, too. His wife was returning home from a camp on Friday, as well, where she had counseled girls from multiple congregations. When I stopped into the church in Decatur, I also delivered books to an elder who plans to use them in local family ministry. The person who returned my items from camp had just returned from follow-up disaster relief work with a church in Florida, and is on his way to another church in Oklahoma to help launch a boys leadership/ministry camp there. The woman who sent me the lost items is on her way to Oklahoma to work in the kingdom, as well. (It’s an Oklahoma week!) And the reason I was doing all this without my husband, in the first place, was that he was on his way to a Lads to Leaders board meeting in Montgomery, Alabama where he would help make plans for the program that involves hundreds of churches around the world. The family in the cabin came to town to visit more family, both in the flesh and in the Lord, who have just completed a three-year stint in England, where they became deeply involved with the family of God in Britain.
And the amazing thing about all of this is that all of these hundreds of congregations are biblically autonomous. They are connected as a family—people who reach out and help when needs are identified, but they are not a part of any caucus, hierarchy or earthly organization to which they are accountable. Each congregation is governed by the Word first, and then by local elders who meet the qualifications given in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. These elders are there to make decisions in matters of opinion and to feed the Word of God to the local flock.
I’m just so thankful for the family. God could have called on me to obey His commands in isolation. But He gave me a family; a family with tentacles that are long and tangled and secure. He put me in another generation of the same family that protected Paul, encouraged Onesimus and sacrificially provided for saints in Jerusalem.
Disparaging and unfaithful voices like to publicly throw out criticism of God’s church today, describing her as unloving and judgmental, or pharisaical and outmoded. Those voices beckon us to believe that we cannot have, be and promote the church of the New Testament today. They disparage on the premise that we cannot know enough truth to emulate the church and follow the doctrine preserved by the Holy Spirit in the Word. I cannot disagree more. While, it may be palatable to some to believe I can drift along in a spiritual journey without being conscientious about being a part of the church Jesus was describing in Matthew 16:15, 16, the Word makes an ultimatum of church membership, assigned by God at baptism (Acts 2:37-47) and adherence to the doctrine of the New Testament (Romans 6:17; Acts 2:42). I cannot be saved without being part of the New Testament church…the family of God. And I’m so glad for that family!
Thanks to the people who saw me safely home on Friday and to the people who are helping to see me safely home for good! Just so blessed in the family!