Remarkable, Ordinary Churches

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Something remarkable happened last Sunday.

I visited a church half an hour from where I live. The streets were filled with snow. I was sure the church would be empty, especially as I slid my way down the road where that church meets.

The church parking lot was unplowed. I counted only four other cars. I found my way to the church basement and found the pastor teaching six older adults. I could tell the pastor cared about them and about his message.

At 11 I moved to the sanctuary. I watched as the room filled. The service started. People sang, prayed, and read Scripture. The pastor preached clearly and faithfully. I tried to leave quickly when the service ended but kept getting stopped by friendly people.

It was just another Sunday at an ordinary church, and yet I was amazed. A church that I thought was dead overflowed with life. People who could have stayed at home on a snowy day prioritized public worship. A pastor loved his people and preached the Word. All of this took place in a small congregation meeting in a humble building down a side-street, easily overlooked in a big city like Toronto.

Faithful Churches Everywhere

The more I get out there, the more I’m encouraged by the ministry of the Word going on in faithful churches all around us. It may be ordinary, but it’s remarkable too.

I used to feel cynical about churches. Hang around in church long enough and you will experience disappointment with both the people and the pastors. “If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all!” quipped Spurgeon. “And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it.”

I’m no longer cynical. Instead, I’m amazed. In the past seven years, I’ve visited dozens of churches on Sunday mornings before attending our local church in the afternoon. I’m more encouraged by the Church the more I see of it.

In millions of churches every week, people gather around the gospel. Most of the time it doesn’t look like much, and yet these churches demonstrate God’s multifaceted wisdom to rulers and authorities in the heavens (Ephesians 3:10). These churches guard the good deposits entrusted to them (2 Timothy 1:14). They serve as the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). They are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), part of the new temple that God is building (1 Peter 2:5).

Don’t let the ordinariness of the church fool you. Don’t buy all the cynicism about the church being dead and the institution not worth saving. All around this, God is building his church and preserving a people who have nothing in common except for Jesus. We have the incredible privilege of joining the church and loving God’s people.

Something remarkable is happening next Sunday too. I can’t wait.

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