The Sunday after Thanksgiving I attended Berea Christian Fellowship, my former church, before moving to Pennsylvania. This church has taken its fair share of twists and turns through the years. I remember its early conception. I was not yet in school when my parents began meeting in small groups with visionary young-married couples during the era of revival meetings. Stirred by such messages, these young couples made up in zeal for what they lacked in wisdom. Dissatisfied with the local Beachy church, the young couples left and established Berea Christian Fellowship.
At some point they began meeting in an old abandoned school house. About this time, my parents joined the group because many of them were family and close friends. I was just a young schoolgirl when a church building was erected for the Berea church. The building process connected the group in purpose and vision. They supposed the vision and zeal would carry them through the next number of years.
Unknown to these early members, dark days were looming in the distant horizon. Vision and zeal alone could not counter the black clouds. Established less than twenty years, Berea Christian Fellowship nearly collapsed. The pastor and two co-pastors left. A number of parishioners left. The time came when only a few families remained. In desperation the people that were left at Berea, went to the former Beachy church and begged for help. They graciously complied. Slowly, very slowly things turned around. Change takes time– a very long time. It is still not a perfect church, and will not be because churches are made up of imperfect people.
We must remember it is Jesus who builds His church. We are imperfect people. Jesus uses imperfect people to partnership with Him. His church is filled with apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, moms and dads, children, and yes, single people for the “perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
One thing that always strikes me about the Berea church is its friendly engagement with people. The church family is greeted warmly, and loved. Visitors are pleasantly acknowledged. Those who have a testimony may share, or those with a prayer request will be prayed for on the spot. Every Sunday birthdays are celebrated by singing for the birthday person as they walk to the front to drop a money gift into the birthday jar. Every month anniversaries are acknowledged by calling the couples to the front and praying a blessing over their marriage. The young people have opportunities to participate, and they are prayed for individually as they prepare to embark on some mission trip or endeavor. Children participate on a regular basis by sharing memory verses they have learned in Sunday school. What about the older singles? They, too, have a place.
Since I happened to be there the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I became a recipient of a tremendous blessing. They called seven older single ladies / moms to the front. As a visitor on this morning, I too, was included. Deacon Lavern gave words of gratefulness for our contribution to the work of the church, and then he prayed a blessing over our lives as single woman. My eyes blurred. I was deeply touched by this encouraging moment. After the prayer, the deacon’s wife pulled out a box of Veni’s Sweet Shop chocolates for each single lady. As we walked back to our seats, the congregation applauded. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give each other in the church is the blessing of encouragement and applause as we work and live in the kingdom of God.
He handed out gifts above and below,
filled heaven with his gifts,
filled earth with his gifts.
He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher
to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work,
working within Christ’s body, the church,
until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other,
efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son,
fully mature adults, fully developed within and without,
fully alive like Christ.
from The Message