As a member of the Millennial generation, I am painfully aware that many in my age group are leaving the church. While I certainly understand why life in the church can be difficult and even frustrating at times, I love the church so much that I have devoted my life to her and to her mission. Here are four of the reasons I am thankful for the church.
1. The church taught me about Jesus.
I do not remember a time when I did not know about Jesus. That is primarily because all throughout my childhood, the church was a major part of my life. The church – which includes my parents – taught me about Jesus and why I should love Him.
My parents read me Bible stories. I attended Bible classes on Sundays and Wednesdays. I sat in a pew every Sunday, hearing (even if not always actively listening) to sermons and singing songs. I went to church camps, youth rallies, and even a few gospel meetings. The church was as much a part of my life as my physical family.
I don’t understand people who resent being “drug to church” as a child. I can’t even fathom feeling that way. The church introduced me to Jesus and for that, I will forever be thankful.
2. The Holy Spirit ministers to me through the church.
I believe Scripture teaches that the Spirit of God equips each member of the body to minister to the rest of the body in a particular way. Although He equips people differently today than He did in the first century, I believe this statement is still true, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
When my brothers and sisters encourage me, comfort me, teach me, or admonish me, the Holy Spirit is working through them for my good. The Spirit gives life to the body of Christ and empowers the body to be the hands, feet, and mouth of Jesus in the world today. God has graciously given each member a gift and those gifts have often been employed to serve me (1 Peter 4:10-11).
It is wonderful to have shoulders to cry on and arms to wrap around you when you hurting, to have people teach you things you had not previously known or considered, and to have people share with you when you’re in need. Those have been just a few of my experiences in the church; both from the giving and receiving side. And as Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
3. The church gives me a place to be challenged.
The church isn’t perfect and I’m not perfect. We are all trying to grow up into the people God wants us to be. And growth doesn’t happen in a comfortable environment, but in a challenging environment. It is only when imperfect people commit themselves to other imperfect people that anyone experiences spiritual growth.
When my brothers and sisters in Christ show that they are imperfect in their understanding or their behavior, I could just walk away. Or I could look at it as an opportunity to grow in my ability to walk, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).
I am so thankful that my brothers and sisters have walked with me in humility, gentleness, and patience. I am thankful they bear with me in love. I’m also thankful for their imperfections so that I have the opportunity to do the same with them. God is shaping us all into the people He wants us to be, in part, by allowing us opportunities to share our lives with people who are sometimes challenging to love.
4. Being a part of the church means being a part of God’s people.
One of the major themes of the Bible is, what it means to be the people of God. All throughout the Bible, God has a group of people who are His people. They are set apart and protected by God. They are loved in a special way. First it was Adam and Eve. Then it was Noah and His family. Then it was Abraham. Then it was the Israelites. And finally, it is those who choose to follow Jesus; othewise known as, “the church.”
Even more than personal salvation, most of the New Testament is dedicated to explaining what it means to be a Gentile and be part of the people of God. That is not a blessing anyone should take lightly. It is something for which we should all be incredibly thankful.
God has grafted me into the family tree of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Romans 11:11-24). When I was baptized into Christ, I became a child of Abraham, an heir according to promise (Galatians 3:27-29). Because I submitted myself to the kingship of Jesus, He gave me the right to become God’s child and call God my Father (John 1:12).
In Christ, the family story of the Bible is my family story. I’m getting the opportunity to live out that family story with the church every day of my life. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God has allowed me to be part of His people, to have a seat at His banquet table, to be a citizen of His heavenly kingdom, and to share in the inheritance He is giving to His people.
That is what it means to be part of the church and that is why I’m thankful.
I love you and God loves you,