Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Hereby Resolve

by Susanne Dietze

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5

I’m not the sort of gal who makes New Year’s resolutions. This year, however, I’ve realized how desperately I need a few changes: in 2011, I want to laugh more, exercise more, start (and finish) a brand-spanking-new manuscript, and be more diligent about nurturing a life of prayer.

God’s given me a few things to bring to Him: the needs of my loved ones, of course. My growth. But also the health and unity of the Church. Yep, Capital "C" Church. Not just my house of worship, but the Body of Christ. One thing I've noticed lately is talk about “that church” or “my church as opposed to your church,” nothing spectacular or scandalous, just matters of preference, but sometimes these words are spoken with a tone of superiority. Hymns versus praise bands. Frequency of communion. Since the Church began, believers have been squabbling about practice, piety, and theology. Sometimes the issues are essential and worth fighting for (and I have fought over some of these -- salvation issues are not up for debate with me); other times, the matters – to my thinking – are distracting and divisive.
Old Country Church - Rockton OntarioImage by Gemma Grace via Flickr

Once upon a time, gentlemen tipped their hats as a sign of respect when they walked past a church, regardless of whether or not his denomination matched that of the building. One eleventh-century Englsih bishop, St. Wulfstan, supposedly made a habit of stopping in at every church he passed to pray at the altar. Granted, at that time there were no denominational divisions in England, so every church he entered was much like his own, whether he was at home in Worcester or traveling. However, each church – then, just as now – housed unique congregations. Each house of worship had its own individual atmosphere, ministries, and spectrum of parishioners. The buildings looked different, smelled different. Felt different.
Thornby Church. The epitome of the country church.Image via Wikipedia

Wulfstan, I believe, didn’t stop and pray at these many altars because he was a church tourist (which I definitely am – I love to look at churches!), or because he didn’t think he could pray adequately while trotting down the road. I think he stopped to pray because he cared about the work God was doing in and through those congregations and he wanted to prayerfully support his brothers and sisters – although strangers to him – who worshipped, served, and grew in those parishes.

I am always encouraged to learn what God is doing in other places, whether it’s news from missionary friends in far-away countries or the street ministry of a church in my town. Yet I still forget to seek out this sort of wonderful news. I stop asking my friends what God is doing in and through their churches. I forget that we are all on the same team, working toward the common goal of reaching out to the sin-weary world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Praying for unity is something God wants us to do, too. Just before he was betrayed, arrested, and crucified, Jesus prayed for all believers: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23).

We are to be unified in Christ in order to glorify God. To let the world know that God sent Jesus to save us, and that He loves us. He wants us to be unified that we might draw others to Him. This certainly seems an important, worthy, and blessed goal, but one I often neglect working toward.

So this year, I’m striving for unity. Like Wulfric, I’ll pray for churches which aren’t my own (even if I don’t stop to go inside) and for the ministries of others. I'll be on the lookout for ways I can uplift my fellow Christians in my community and throughout the world. I’ll also pray for unity within my own congregation as well as my family, for peace among believers in all the world, with faith that God will be glorified and others might be drawn to Him, just as He said.

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  1. Susanne, I needed this!
    Our little church has gone through so much since its inception. It seems to hang on by a thread and the grace of God.
    This is a wonderful reminder to pray more for all the churches.


  2. Great post, Susie. When we first started attending our small country church about ten years ago, the pastor at that time seemed to be one of those 'our church is better than your church' guys.

    Our current pastor is a local farmer who attended Bible school in Tennessee as a youngster. He is always inviting the other 2 local churches to our events. And our youth group is open to any denomination. Basically because it's the only youth group around, but also because we want the kids to be brought up in a community of tolerance.

    And you're right... we all worship the same God.

    Thank you for the reminder.

    Anita Mae.

  3. Good morning, Cheryl, and Happy New Year! I'm so glad to see you this morning. I'll be praying for your church today. May God bless your church family and work in and through you to draw others to Himself!

  4. Thanks, Anita Mae! Your pastor sounds wonderful. I'm so glad he invites others to share with your church. And reaching out to kids in the community is a vital ministry.

    I am of the conviction that Jesus loves hymns and organs as well as praise songs and electric guitars, but what He really loves is when our hearts are engaged in worshipping Him.

    At the end of the post, I should've asked how I can pray for everyone's church! If there's anything I can pray for, please let me know. I'd love to pray for my brothers and sisters today.

  5. Susanne, thank you for your prayers.
    My request: We (the few remaining families at our church) need to know if it's time to let go. We have been striving for so long and are really weary.

    Thank you! Blessings!!

  6. I'll be praying, Cheryl. Thanks for sharing your church's needs. This sounds like a difficult situation. I pray that God grants you clarity, discernment of His will, and peace. God bless you.


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