I stood before the congregation as I do most Sundays. Before me were people of different ages; different careers present and past; different scales of wealth; different nationalities, skin colour, gender, and even sexual identity. A young lady not used to public speaking came to the front to bring a presentation promoting an organisation. She was very nervous but despite the obvious struggle of a nervous stammer did very well and received an applause as she went back to her seat with people nearby saying, ‘well done’ with nods of encouragement. The Pastor came to the pulpit and called for the people to give to a local youth mission, ‘even though we may not benefit from this mission ourselves’. This church doesn’t have lots of youth but the ones they do have are catered for very well. This Church has a rich diversity of people, you wouldn’t necessarily arrange for this particular group of people to do life together because their difference is seen in a variety of ways. However, they all had been praising God using the same songs; they all would share the same refreshments after the service; they all shared the same Pastor and Eldership team who served them keeping this church in alignment with the Word and Spirit as much as they could. But they all were different. Some old in the faith but very young in spirit; some young in the faith but brow-beaten by life’s difficulties.
It wasn’t without tension. Most places like this have their ‘strong’ and the ‘weak’, as the Apostle Paul has spoken of in the previous chapter. It wasn’t perfect but it was a safe place.
During an appeal for anyone to come forward for prayer a man who had come to church for the first time that morning walked to the front. He committed his life to Jesus and everyone whooped and applauded bringing more praise to God.
As the man went back to his seat I said to him publicly these words: “Welcome to this Church. This is a safe place for you. You will grow as a disciple of Christ in this community.” Why was I so sure?
I was in a Church that understood these words, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7