I love this quote from Terry Virgo's recent "Firstline". It was an excellent article all round and I've posted two other quotes - one on my quotes blog and one in the "Blank Bible". But this one is about the Church - one of my favourite topics;
"New converts need to encounter not simply a series of meetings and events but a family dwelling together in love and light where grace is not simply ‘in the air’, but in personal relationships which communicate life, support and strength".
I know that I can testify to my home church in Dunstable truly reflecting this. I remember that I couldn't get away from the place. Our whole lives were wrapped up in church. I often get asked questions like; "When did you start going out clubbing?". Well as a teenager for myself that didn't happen - Dunstable didn't really have any clubs worth visiting! But more importantly there was far too much going on at the church to even consider it. I can't actually remember even sitting at home bored on a Saturday night.
It was exceptionally difficult for me to leave Dunstable to go to university to start my nursing career and I had to seek advice off the elder I trusted most before going. Maybe the church didn't emphasise evangelism and getting into the world enough - but I'm so grateful that when I read this quote of Terry's I am blessed enough to have experienced true church family. As a single guy it is all too painfully evident in many churches that you are alone. I don't think my "singleness" actually sunk in until I moved to Bristol - because in Dunstable I was surrounded by church family. I loved it! I used to travel back from Birmingham every weekend I could because I loved going to the 18's and over's meetings that my friend Mark and his wife Steph used to hold - it was a touch of revival!
My heart goes out to those who have never known church life as Terry Virgo describes it. To those who's church leaders do indeed "hire and fire" not only other leaders but also deal with church members in the same heavy-handed way. Who rule with a rod of iron and cannot even contemplate any other situation than "their word being law". To those who haven't experienced real grace. Even though I can't honestly say I'm in the kind of church family I knew at Dunstable at least I know what to hope and pray for! How awesome to be in a family where you are addressed as;
"My brothers, my beloved, my longed-for, my joy, my crown".