At the best of times, engaging in the life of a church (in the sense of the corporate body) can seem difficult. For those who have seen churches torn apart in splits, or been part of congregations where false doctrine or unrepentant sin have been allowed to fester, it can seem almost impossible.
It’s hard to feel safe enough to let yourself be known. To let people in. It’s risky to be vulnerable. But, despite our feelings, it’s not impossible.
I was thinking about something Ray Ortlund wrote after a new friend respectfully asked me a pointed question, to try to better get to know me. This friend’s question, and Ortlund’s article, got me thinking about how is it possible to make what seems impossible possible? Is there a the secret or equation? What are the elements of a healthy church culture that allows for this?
Ortlund boils it all down to these three points: Gospel + Safety + Time. And, as he says in his article, we need a lot of all three, because:
- The gospel is for messed up people in need of grace, and God supplies it without fail to all who turn to Jesus in faith.
- We need to feel safe to admit our failures, to be okay with not being okay as it were, and be in relationship with other sinners.
- We need time, to meet other and be met by patience as we all stumble toward holiness together.
Over the last year, this equation has been what we’ve been looking for. It’s what we’ve needed as we’ve worked to become invested in a church in our community. This aspect of our lives has probably been the hardest of our entire move to America. But one thing I’ve been grateful for is that we’ve been met with these three elements, time and again. They have been so necessary for us as we’ve worked to acclimate into a church. And if there’s anything that makes me believe that what seems impossible really is possible, it’s this.