As my summer internship reaches an end, I've been meditating on the different things I've learned this summer and the things that I'll be taking with me for my future ministry. I've seen and come to appreciate many things in the community that makes up the people of Christ Church. Jeff asked me to write a blog post summarizing the various things that I've observed and learned from an outside perspective, both as an encouragement to you and as a different perspective on things you may be unable to see because you’re in the thick of it.
I've come to love and appreciate many of the individual people that make up this church. People are not part of a church, they are the church. I see this attitude modeled by the individuals of Christ Church. One of the great issues of the German church is an unwillingness to get involved in the church life and a perspective on church that church is simply something that you attend. A place to go on Sunday morning as opposed to a living and dynamic community of believers to love and serve with your spiritual gifts. While I'm sure there may be room for improvement, as there always is, this is something I appreciate tremendously about this church. I always felt loved and welcomed by the people of the church and have formed some real friendships. Whether it was letting me practice my driving (I've been working on getting my American license this summer) or just spending a free evening over at someone's house I've enjoyed it tremendously!
The other main thing that has stood out to me is the power of biblical truth and doctrine to shape people's lives. The church in Germany often falls into a very doctrine-opposing attitude. Theology is almost a bad word because it conjures up images of arrogant men dividing churches and waging war over trivialities. I don't need to tell you this, but nothing could be further from the reality. The intensely personal and practical implications of the study of God for how we align our lives in relationship to him can hardly be overstated. I have tremendously enjoyed coming to know, and building relationships with, people whose personal aim in life is to bring glory and praise to God. God is the center of the universe, man is not. The power of the church is drained when this role is reversed and I praise God for the many individuals of Christ Church where this is not the case.
I've gained a new respect for the amount of work that goes into running a church on the “back-end.” Jeff works hard every day and so do many volunteers that make everything that happens in this church possible. I appreciate the sacrifices made by Joe and his family that enable him to take care of much of the administration of the church. It's exemplary that Jeff chooses to pray for each individual in this church and has a burden to reach more people. A strong elder body is extremely important for the health of the church. Therefore I can only reinforce: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb. 13:17)
One thing that stood out to me was the actual church events. I always found myself very much looking forward to church services and to small group. I often enter a church service in Germany wondering how much of the service I will be able to give a full “Amen” to, and how much will sadden me. Here it was wonderful to see that we sang songs that had God in the center and gave glory to him. I enjoyed the focus of the sermons on Christ and what HE has done. I loved the open and joyful atmosphere of small groups and the meaningful and deep discussion that accompanied it. Small group specifically was consistently one of my week's highlights.
Overall I have learned much this summer and am leaving America with a burden on my heart for the people and the churches of Germany. I believe God is not done with the country where the reformation began, no matter how liberal some churches become or how secular the society as a whole becomes. I encourage everyone in this church to appreciate what God has done and is doing in this church and in the lives of its individuals. Often we need to take a step back to get a full view of what God is doing and the blessing that we so often overlook or take for granted. This is something I've been privileged to have by coming into this church from the outside. We should praise the Lord for what he has done and press on to labor with all our might in what he will continue to do through this church!
God bless you!