A bit overdue, but better late than never.
On the last Sunday of July, we told our people not to show up at our building for service. Instead, we had everyone drive 15 minutes south on the Blvd to ReaLife Church for our first ever joint-service. The day was glorious for many reasons, the greatest being the unity that we shared in Jesus.
ReaLife is so different than us. Our two churches are worlds apart. Culturally, socioeconomically, geographically, whatever other “-ally” words you can find, we’re different. Blue collar; white collar. Urban; suburban-urban. The lead pastor of ReaLife is a 6’4 white dude who played college basketball and rides a motorcycle. The pastor of Seven Mile Road is a 5’5 Indian guy who can’t hit a free-throw and drives a Toyota Camry with two car-seats in the back. Just different. And yet to see our two churches loving one another, worshiping together, eating together, and rallying around the unifying gospel of Jesus was glorious.
We celebrated baptisms together. A few of the folks from ReaLife and Seven Mile Road (including myself) got baptized. As each person shared the story of what Jesus had done in their life, the power of the gospel became clearer and more evident. For me personally, I was moved by how different the stories were. For example, you had a young guy from ReaLife who was covered in tattoos and had those earrings that made a big hole in your earlobe. He was a recovering drug addict who was going to Teen Challenge the next day to fight for freedom. He beautifully told the story of how God had connected him to ReaLife, opened his heart to the gospel, and saved him. Soon afterwards, you had a young gal from Seven Mile Road. She was highly educated and had a great job. While she was in school in India, she got a few bad grades, was crushed, turned to the Psalms to give language to her prayers, and Jesus saved her through the experience. As I heard both, I kept thinking, how amazing is the gospel. How does a moral, upstanding, woman from the Hindu nation of India and an immoral, mistake-ridden man from America both have a share in Abraham’s family as members of the new Israel? How expansive is the gospel that Jesus can take men and women from every corner of the planet, from every tribe, tongue, and nation and make them sons and daughters of God? How did God take this girl and this guy and make them siblings? Ha! How devastating is sin that whether it’s an addiction to pleasure or perfection, our souls are ruined without God? How great is God and the gospel of Jesus!
I left the day wanting to have joint-services become a regular thing in the life of our church. How great would it be if a few of the churches we are in deep relationship with gathered annually to worship Jesus together. Maybe next year I can convince all the A29 guys to do a joint service at the Piazza in Northern Liberties. We’ll see.