One of the great joys of being part of one local church over a lifetime is having the opportunity to see the Lord’s work in the lives of His people as they grow and mature and travel through the various stages of life along the long, dusty, narrow road of the Christian life. I hope that over the last 5 1/2 years as my family has been at Ephesus Church, God’s people have seen growth and maturity in me – not simply as a pastor, but as a Christian, as a husband, as a father, and as a friend. Along the journey, each of us have taken hits from one another, we’ve been helped, we’ve been hurt, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve rejoiced, we’ve mourned, we’ve sinned and been rebuked, and we’ve had great opportunities to rejoice because of the work of God in our lives. And the longer we continue in the journey together, through all the difficulties and all the pains and all the ups and downs, the more we will see with increasing clarity the great blessings of God upon His people.
In my time as a pastor, one of my favorite things has been to see people come to faith in Christ – some young, some old – and having the opportunity to sit back and watch the Lord at work in growing, shaping, maturing, and moving them from one level of understanding and faith to another. It’s a marvelous work God does, and I delight in getting to see it. I hope the people at Ephesus Church see the same in me: A young man with rough edges getting smoothed out, learning more about what’s most important and overlooking more of what’s of lesser significance. I hope there’s a great progression of our helpfulness toward one another as we do life together at Ephesus Church, realizing that sometimes when iron is being sharpened, there will be sparks – but those sparks are often necessary.
I just had a birthday this week, and I’m realizing the older I get, the more I am amazed and love what God does within the local church. Taking broken and sinful people, redeeming us, and then setting us on course together toward the great celestial city in which we all hope and can see with greater and greater clarity as we move closer and closer to that great end with Jesus. It is a supernatural work of God. The fact that Christians are in local churches together, worshipping with one another, is a supernatural work of God! For those outside of Christ, all that the church is amounts to a complete waste of time, a foolish endeavor, and an infringement on their opportunity to maximize worldly pleasures. But for Christians, meeting together for worship is the greatest time of the week! We long for it, we delight in it, we want more of it. Once a week, God takes us from the depths of the valley and places us on the mountain of transfiguration that together we can behold his glory! What a marvelous gift it is!
By the grace of God we are who we are as a church, we are who we are as a people of God, we are who we are as His children – loved, cared for, nurtured, sustained, and saved from the wrath to come. By the grace of God, we who were broken and battered and messed up in all sorts of ways have had our names written in heaven forevermore. And having the opportunity to see the fruit of God’s work of redemption year after year in the lives of his people is one of the greatest joys in the family of God. The longer we persevere with the same people in the same local church – even when it’s tough – the greater the joy! If the Lord wills, my 5 1/2 years at Ephesus Church will turn into a lifetime. I don’t want to be anywhere else!
(By: Nick Kennicott)