We have been walking through a study in our Community Groups through Mark Dever's great book, What Is A Healthy Church? One thing we will be emphasizing quite a bit is the importance of committed, local church membership. Last night, I was reminded of the importance of joining hands with a local body of believers. Amy led another Karis Women's Conversation last night (ironically about Contentment in a Worried World). Before that seven o'clock meeting, she had dinner with her best pal, Jeanna, at 5:30 at Chevy's. That, of course, means that I was at home with three kids under four for quite a long time. Well, the first thing nights like that do for me is remind me of how amazing my lovely wife is. She handles the three of them with such love and grace. Second, and related, it reminds me of how much I need to grow. I honestly can't handle it very well. People who say that stay-at-home moms don't work obviously haven't tried it. As much as I love my children, it is very difficult. Add to the normal struggles with three kids under four is the fact that our infant Kylen has some serious stomach issues that leave him crying very much of the time. In fact, last night he cried from about 5:20, when she left, until at least 7:30. It was crazy. I am not nearly patient and loving and godly enough to handle it all without a near meltdown.
But, third, it reminded me, once again, of why it's so important to be a member of a healthy church. Amy told me once of a quote from a book on women's ministry, where one lady said, "I used to be patient until I had kids." The author, however, corrected her and said, "No, you just never had your patience tested." Now, ask my elders, and they'll tell you for sure-- I'm not a very patient person. So I can't claim that, period. But it's far easier for me to be patient when I'm sitting downtown, as I am now, in Panera, typing on my computer. It's much harder to practice that fruit of the Spirit when I am holding a screaming 2 month year old and when I have two other kids fighting over a toy.
What, then, does this have to do with church membership? It's easy to say we love God's people, that we're growing in patience, and that we are seeking kindness in theory or without commitment. In other words, at the worst, we may not have opportunities to practice the fruit of the Spirit at all. At best, we may practice them in a random way with a hodge-podge of Christians to whom we aren't held accountable and from whom we could run at any time.
Church membership is messy. It isn't far from 3 children kicking and screaming at times. But it is beautiful. I wouldn't trade hugs and kisses from my kids, Hadley, Melia, and Kylen, for anything in the world. Similarily, the church is the most beautiful thing on earth. Christ's redemption shines through people gathered together to share hurts and joys. And, those standing on the outside have no idea what we're really talking about. That's because it's love, patience, and kindness that hasn't been tested.