Whether you grew up going to church twice on Sundays or never set foot in a church at all, finding and sinking your roots into a church community is crucial to your spiritual well-being. Finding the right church home can be a huge challenge, and also a lot of fun.
Kevin and Sherry Harney point out that, while no church is perfect, some will fit you better than others. They show what a healthy church looks like, how to handle hot issues facing churches today, and how to determine whether a church's unique worship style will inspire or distract you. Even better, the Harneys help you discover how to plug into a church and experience the joy of giving back. In the words of the authors, "Church can be one of the most joy-filled, life-giving experiences you will ever have."
Practical, encouraging, and true to the Bible, this book is your road map to finding a spiritual community you can really love.
|Product dimensions:||5.13(w) x 7.19(h) x 0.44(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Sherry Harney is an author and a speaker who serves as the Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Director at Shoreline Church in Monterey, California. She is also the cofounder of Organic Outreach International. For over three decades Sherry has spoken for local, national, and international groups and events. She focuses on prayer, spiritual formation, leadership, and organic outreach.
Over the past three decades Sherry and Kevin have coauthored and partnered with writers such as Ann Voskamp, Max Lucado, Nabeel Qureshi, Jim Cymbala, Miles Mc Pherson, Mark Batterson, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Christine Caine, Gary Thomas, N.T. Wright, Laura Story, Craig Groeschel, Dallas Willard and many others. Kevin and Sherry have three married sons, and three grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
Finding a Church You Can Love and Loving the Church You've Found
By Kevin Harney Sherry Harney
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Kevin and Sherry Harney
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Radiant Bride
Brides are beautiful. There's just no other way to put it. They are radiant, stunning, spectacular.
As a pastor, I have conducted many weddings and wedding rehearsals. The rehearsals are often informal affairs. The wedding party comes in their casual clothes. If it is a summer wedding, they might arrive in shorts and T-shirts. Let's just say that at many rehearsals, people look a little shabby ... myself included!
But twenty-four hours later, it's a different story. This same group of people has gone through an amazing metamorphosis. Tuxedos and beautiful dresses have replaced casual clothes. And the bride has changed more than anyone!
I have the privilege of standing next to the groom as he watches his beloved bride walk down the aisle. Don't get me wrong, this same woman was beautiful the day before, but on the wedding day, there is something different about her. A glow, a spark, a radiance seems to emanate from the bride on her wedding day.
The moment the bride is about to walk down the aisle, something marvelous happens. The eyes of the groom lock onto hers. She smiles, beams, and begins walking toward him. This moment is always captured on film, but the snapshot never does justice to it. At this moment the joy and love are palpable.
The Heavenly Groom and His Church
When I think of the Bible's portrayal of the church as Jesus' bride, I always picture the moment the groom first sees his bride on their wedding day. The excitement, passion, and depth of love the groom feels is how Jesus feels about his church.
What an astonishing reality! God looks on the church with passionate love. And his church is his people. The church is you; the church is me. It is all those who believe in Jesus Christ by faith. The church is people! We are his beloved bride.
Take a moment to reflect on what the Bible says about Christ's church:
I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. For I promised you as a pure bride to one husband, Christ. -2 Corinthians 11:2 NLT
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. -Ephesians 5:25-27
The Beloved of God
The church is not a building, an organization, or some denominational set of rules and regulations. Sometimes we get this mixed up. We say things like, "Let's go to church," as if the church is a place or a building. But in reality, the church is the people who follow Jesus. We are his bride.
Why is the image of the church as the bride of Christ so important? This image is critical for us to understand because it reveals a deep spiritual truth that often gets overlooked: God loves us! He truly does. He is passionate about us. When he looks at us, his heart skips a beat. He sees us as radiant and wonderful. God has a picture of us walking down the center aisle, and he sees us as beautiful.
It has been said that if God had a refrigerator, our picture would be on it! We matter to him. He holds us in his heart with everlasting love.
This is not to say that God forgets what we looked like on rehearsal night. It's just that he chooses to see us in the eternal present moment of the bride walking down the aisle. His heart overflows, and he exults over us with joy.
Why Be Part of the Church?
God loves his church, and we should too! Jesus calls us his bride. That one pure moment of joy and celebration on a wedding day can be yours and mine. And when we become part of his church, this rejoicing does not last for just an hour, a day, or even a lifetime; it lasts for eternity. You see, the Bible talks about a marriage supper in heaven. This same inexpressible joy will be enjoyed forever.
Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God." -Revelation 19:9
We are invited to the wedding supper of Jesus. But we won't be sitting in a seat way in the back. Through faith in Jesus, we become part of his church. We are his bride. We will have the seat of honor next to Jesus. With Jesus, we will be served first when the supper begins. We will be at his side, hand in hand. When the music begins, we will get the first dance. What a beautiful picture of God's love for his people, the church!
Must I Sit in a Church Building to Be Part of the Church?
Some people will say, "I have faith in God, and I believe in Jesus, but I don't want to be part of a congregation." We have heard people say, "I don't like 'organized religion.' I will just worship on my own. I will take walks in God's creation and let that be my church experience." Many people today miss out on so much of the joy of their faith because they walk through their spiritual lives alone.
The local church is God's expression of his bride on the earth today. Do you have to sit in a church building every Sunday to be part of God's church? No! But God has established his church to bring joy to his heart and to be a blessing in our lives. The church is the place where we can discover who we really are. People all over the world are seeking to find the meaning of life and who they are. They search in bars, beds, books, on the ladder of success, and anywhere they feel there might be answers. Yet so often they end up emptier and less sure of who they are. In a healthy and biblical church, you begin to see yourself as the beloved of God. You begin to understand that you are the apple of his eye.
Look in the Mirror
What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see a person who is loved by God? Are you astounded that your reflection is a portrait of someone who matters more to Jesus than words could ever say? When you look in the mirror, do you ever stand in awe, knowing that God calls you his beloved? When was the last time you were overwhelmed by the fact that the Father loves you passionately? He does! You are the apple of his eye. You are his beloved. You are the romance of his heart.
If you have faith in God through Jesus Christ, you are part of his church. Each time you gather with the people of God, you see a reminder of a spiritual reality that is often forgotten. In a sense, you see a snapshot of heaven. God's people are the bride, and Jesus is the groom. Your participation in the fellowship of the church is a regular reminder of just how much God loves you!
Pray for God to help you see yourself as his beloved bride, even on days when you don't feel all that radiant.
Invite God to prepare your heart for the process of finding a church you can really love.
For Further Reflection
How do you feel when you realize that Jesus sees all those who are part of his church like a radiant bride?
If you are a Christian, what does this chapter tell you about how you should see yourself?
Action You Can Take
Read the following passages from the Bible:
1 John 4:10-11
Reflect on or discuss the following questions:
What has God done to prove how deep his love is for you?
If you lived each day with an absolute conviction that these passages from the Bible are true about you, how would this impact how you see yourself? How would it alter the way you see each person in the church?
Just for Fun
If you have a picture of a bride and groom who mean a lot to you, take it out and post it where you will see it regularly. Keep it there during the whole time you are reading this book and looking for a church. Let this picture remind you that those who are truly part of Christ's church are his beloved bride. Let this also prompt you to pray for God's leading as you look for a church home.
Excerpted from Finding a Church You Can Love and Loving the Church You've Found by Kevin Harney Sherry Harney Copyright © 2003 by Kevin and Sherry Harney . Excerpted by permission.
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