I’ve never really fleshed this out here, before, and I think this is as good a time as any to take a swing at it.
We are a church that meets in the Sharonville Fine Arts Center in Cincinnati, OH (Sharonville is small municipality just north of the city). I, personally, am an elder/pastor of that little body of believers. I was the only elder/pastor of a house church (if you haven’t heard of a house church, it’s really just what it sounds like: a church that meets in a home) within the network of local churches known as the Southern Baptist Convention, hence this blog’s previous name of Promised Hope Church. But that little family of Christians decided to join another young fellowship called “CrossBridge,” and thus our congregation’s (and this blogs’s) current name.
Our ministry is simple, as are our Sunday morning gatherings. We sing several songs to the Lord together, then one of our members will read from Scripture or perhaps from a historical “confession” outlining the New Testament Christian faith (for a long time now we’ve been going through the Westminster Catechism). One of the elder/pastors, usually our lead elder Paul, will preach a passage of Scripture. We take the Lord’s Supper and we baptize new believers in Jesus. On other days we meet for small Bible studies or dinners together or play dates or to reach out to the neighborhood. We hope to be faithful to our Savior, loving towards our neighbors, and to advance the Gospel in Cincinnati. We want to be devoted to good works and charity for each other. We sin and confess and repent. We marry and have children. Normal stuff, really. Nothing glamorous.
But what being a part of the gathering of the saints, of a fellowship of believers, has done for me is incalculable. I have been blessed by the Lord and this little local establishment of His bride very deeply. The other day, on New Year’s Eve, Elliot, one of the merged members of our old house church, was having a really rough day at the pizza place he manages. I work with a CrossBridge member at my full-time job, and so I told him about Elliot’s bad day. Without hesitating, this member said he’d go over to the pizza place and have dinner there. Just to see Elliot (“Yott,” we call him). Just to encourage him and spend a little time with him. He volunteered it right away.
That’s a little thing, I know, but it’s a little thing that was very beautiful. A friend just wanting to encourage a friend, and not thinking twice about it. The author of Hebrews says, in chapter 10, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I’ve seen these guys witness to strangers and get doors slammed in their faces from people who don’t want to be bothered about Jesus. I saw one of them go into the hospital with severe flu and an asthma attack and the others respond by paying his rent. I saw one be forced back to India after a decade in this country and the others send him off with a party and a teary goodbye at the Cincinnati airport. I’ve seen them pray for each other and fast for each other and go on trips together, and I have been stirred up to love and good works as I have.
I have also wronged some of them, and I’m sure some of them have wronged me. We’ve confessed our sins to each other, been angry with each other, been disappointed by each other, and felt alone in each other’s midst. We’ve second guessed ourselves, and, if we’re honest, we’ve sinfully second guessed our God. In every way, being in a church, being a member of a body and family within the Kingdom, has exhausted, bloodied, challenged, rebuked, and strengthened me.
Paul writes, to his most challenging church, in 2 Corinthians 1: “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort… For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” He wanted to comfort His spiritual family, and He wanted them to know the genuine source of that comfort. He loved them with the Gospel and he loved them because of the Gospel.
We are a church. CrossBridge in Cincinnati is a church. And I am a church member and elder of that church. Yes, I am an individual adopted son of the Most High God, but He has lovingly grafted me into His ekklesia, and it is there that I am blessed and it is there that I bless. I am served and fed and I serve and feed. There are thousands upon thousands of churches across the planet who worship and proclaim King Jesus and His Gospel, who truly minister the Good News of His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. It is wonderful that there are! God builds and adopts believers into Jesus-proclaiming churches. The Savior said that Hell would not prevail over His called out people and bride, the church, and as always, Jesus is gloriously, wondrously right.
We are a church serving in a city, hoping to preach the Gospel that sinners might repent and believe, and hoping that the brothers might be strengthened and stirred up. By ourselves we are nothing remarkable, but just like every Spirit-wrought church we are thankfully not by ourselves. We hope to be faithful, and we are confident that He is even when we are not.
Earlier in that same chapter of Hebrews, the author entreats, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
We are a church in a city. I hope you are a member of a Gospel-ministering church as well, and that through it God would bless you and use you to bless others.