another thing that i like about why we love the church is that in a culture where its cool to dis church and think of all the things that christians/churches have ever done wrong, these authors uphold and celebrate what churches and christians are doing right. they are balanced in admiting that some churches have their faults, but point out (rightfuly so) that there is no perfect church structure (or lack thereof), no perfect church, and [because] there are no perfect christians. and rather than apologize for all the faults, they list countless examples of churches who are (by God's grace) living as jesus would.
something i have thought about before, but have been reminded of through this book is everything i love about all of the churches i have ever been involved in. i have always wished that i could string together all the things that i have loved about all of the churches i have been a part of to make the perfect church. but obviously, this isn't realistic, so i have learned to live in the tension of seeing positives and weaknesses in things (including in churches).
so i am writing to celebrate God's grace. anything good in any church is completely God's grace, and i want to share the evidences of grace that i have enjoyed seeing in the 3 most recent churches i have been a part of.
i was involved in berlin projekt for about 6 months while i lived in germany. this church was planted about 2 years before i started going, by two single german guys in their late 20's who studied under tim keller for a while before planting berlin projekt. the flavor of the church reminded me a lot of what i know about keller's church in new york.
there are so many things about this church that i loved, i dont even know where to start. one of the main focuses of this church was to reach artists, which was reflected in the services. each week our service opened and closed with a local musician. their styles ranged from opera to jazz to digital music, and they were always very talented. this not only gave the service a very cool feel, but also brought people into the church [namely, these artists] who never would have come otherwise. the church office doubled as an art gallery, which also allowed for a lot of contact with the community.
the sermons were deep yet accessible. the pastors always had pop-culture references that served to enhance (rather than take away from) the preaching of God's word. the gospel was preached every week. my favorite part of the service by far was communion. it was served every week (i love when churches do this!!), and it was always made clear that communion was just for the believers in the room (though each week there were numerous nonchristians there). i cant explain why, but during these times of communion i always met with God deeply and intimately, more so than communion at any other church i have ever gone to.
i was a part of xenos during my senior year of college and just over a year after i got back from germany. xenos was a church of about 5,000 people, but you would never guess it for the small, hospitable feel that it had. it was started in the 70's by two hippie ohio state college students who had recently become christians. it started as a home bible study that grew into a church. as a result, it functioned as a network of home churches (with centralized leadership and large group gatherings on sundays).
i love xenos! alex and i were both deeply affected by our time there. one of the strengths of xenos were reaching people who had little exposure the bible and the gospel. nearly everyone at the church that i knew of regularly spent time with non-christians (outside of formal settings such as work). and more than that, they were engaging them in spiritual conversations and introducing them to other christians. we rarely went a week at home church without a non-christian present at the meeting.
another thing that we loved about xenos was the emphasis on serving and loving one another as a body of believers. people would hang out with each other a lot, and were deeply involved in one another's lives. we lived within walking distance of at least 10 people from our home church, and hung out with friends from our group at least four times a week, but often more. furthermore, people were very willing to serve one another with physical needs. for example, alex and i needed rides to and from the airport at least 10 times during our first year of marriage, sometimes at crazy hours, and there was always someone (usually multiple people) who were willing to drive us. people also served us at various times through lending us their car, helping to decorate and make things for our wedding and helping us to move, among other things.
anchor community church
alex and i moved to long beach in august and immediately started to look for a church. in november we decided to put down our roots at anchor community church. anchor was planted about two years ago and has grown to about 50-100 people (i am bad at estimating numbers).
we love anchor! the very first week we went we noticed two things: the pastor loves the gospel deeply and the people are very welcoming.
now that anchor is our home, we continue to appreciate these things about the church. we love the sermons, our pastor is deeply studied and always makes the gospel the rock solid foundation of all that he teaches. theologically, we are very in line with the church, and we especially love the emphasis on male leadership, something that is usually glazed over by churches. we have clicked very well with people and they have been really great to bring us in and be our friends and family in our new city of residence. we look forward to continuing to get involved and serve with the gifts God has given us.
praise God for these churches!
[read part 1 here]