Anyone who thinks that church is irrelevant, boring, unnecessary, or ……………… (you fill in the negative blank!) has clearly never had the privilege of walking through the darkest, bleakest valleys of life in the context of belonging to a Christ-centred, grace-giving church community.
By God’s grace – I have – and I’m now more buzzin’ about church than ever.
1. The Universal Church
There’s only one church and it’s made up of all true believers of all time and of all nations, languages, cultures and skin tones. That’s a massive concept to get your head around. It’s easy for a South Wales Valley boy, living on a small council estate in the Valleys to forget that through Christ, He belongs to the biggest and best family in the history of the world. However, the last few months have certainly kicked that mindset into touch.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my family and I have never felt so ‘prayed for’ as we have done over recent days. I know it sounds a bit nuts, but I feel like I’ve somehow floated through the toughest season of my life to date on a magic carpet of other people’s prayers. So many saints have got in touch to offer their loving support and assure me of their prayers. I genuinely don’t think I would have got through recent events without losing it, had I not been sustained by the prayers of brothers and sisters, many of whom I barely know, or don’t know at all. My family has been prayed for by people from all over the UK and even all around the world! At mam’s funeral I met a fantastic elderly Welsh couple who introduced themselves and asked if I was the “roller-skating priest” for whom they had been praying for years (I used to be a skateboarder, and I am a pastor – so they were kind of on the right track!!) I had never met them before – but they are my church family and had been prayerfully watching my back for years! I guess I’ve come to realise that when one part of the body suffers – we all suffer, but we all pray, we all hope and ultimately we all rejoice together too!
2. Local Church
When we started our current preaching series at Hill City Church, the plan was that I would preach through the entire book of Ephesians over a 12 week period, as well as doing all the other pastoral stuff that I’m regularly involved in. However, as mam’s health started to deteriorate it became clear that things weren’t going to work out that way as demands on my time, emotion and spiritual energy increased greatly. Hill City is an awesome church to belong to, but it’s also very new and very young. Could it cope without its pastor for a while?
DUH!!! Course it could!
Jesus has kept His promise and has been faithfully building His church up here on the hill. James, Pete and my good buddy, Peyton Jones, all stepped up to the plate and covered the preaching (4 fantastic sermons), but even more encouraging for me was how EVERYONE seemed to get stuck in to keep the ship afloat. Nothing ground to a halt, no one went nuts, the gospel was still preached and Christ was still glorified! What’s more, so many members of the Hill City family were just itching to bless, help, support, love and encourage my family through it all – it was so incredibly humbling! For me, however, it was the significant Hill City contingent that came to mam’s funeral that really blew me away. Hardly any of them knew my mam personally, but such is the love in Hill City – they weren’t content to just celebrate with us on the mountain top each Sunday, they also wanted to walk through the valley and grieve with us too!
Thank you Hill City – I love you more than you know!!