There were guests in our home for the weekend, my mother and my husband's little brother both came from Texas to visit us. Saturday morning woke up slowly, the type of morning that begs for a hearty breakfast. I wanted to make Belgian waffles, because they're delicious and homier than a bowl of cereal. When I peeked in my pantry, though, I couldn't find the mix that I typically use.
The mix is the easy way to make waffles. Combine the mix, eggs, milk, and oil and about 10 minutes later you've got crispy, fluffy waffles. I don't mind cooking, but I also don't love it. And on a Saturday morning, I wanted to put in minimal effort for maximum results. I wanted to cut corners to a good breakfast.
I had to google a recipe and hope I had all the necessary ingredients. I did. But the recipe, while relatively simple, required beaten egg whites to be folded into the batter, a technique I've avoided at all costs. It's not that it's difficult, but it seems a little risky. If something goes wrong, the end result is a sad breakfast. Nevertheless, with the help of my mother, she beat the whites to stiff peaks, while I prepared the rest of the batter. When the time came, I spooned dollops of egg whites into the mix, looking at my mom often and saying "Is this right? Am I doing it right?" Her guess was just as good as mine.
The first waffle was far from fluffy. I looked at the batter and there were still lumps of egg whites clustered together throughout. I hadn't incorporated everything together properly because I was timid, afraid of squashing all the air. I was afraid I would be too harsh on the egg whites, deflating their effect of creating airy waffles. Because of my timidity though, I'd garnered the result that I feared: flat waffles. So, I took more time to fold the batter in. I gently lifted the spatula in vertical, circular motions, trying not to disturb the airiness of the batter. When I did it properly, we all enjoyed a tasty plate of Belgian Waffles with warm maple syrup and Irish butter.
When thinking through the verbiage of making waffles. I became reminded of the notion of the local church. We, like delicate whites, need to be folded into the local church. We need to be incorporated into the Body of Christ, our Shepherd's fold. Timidity won't suffice; we must be all in. Overzealousness will squash; we must defer our pride.
Over the past 3 years working as a church planter, my love for the local church has grown exponentially. I've seen the church at her worst, but I've also seen God build her up. I've seen God grow her, adding members by gently-yet-consistently folding people into community. I've seen Him take what is broken and mend it. I've seen how much care it takes to carefully fold yourself into the body, and I've seen the consequences of failure to be incorporated and fully folded in.
Acts 2:42 "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
Some of the first words we see about the Church speaks of the fluent unity. Scripture reveals that the early church devoted themselves to learning of God and loving one another. Their lives were integrated. They were folded in together. They ate together, learned together, and prayed together. They knew that they were outsiders to a world that hated them, that this world is not their true home, and that they needed the support of other believers. They knew that God was using the Church, His Bride, as an instrument.
The church gets a bad reputation. People have been hurt by her, scorned and dejected. I know this because I have been, too. But the beauty of the church is that God uses sinners–He uses you and He uses me and He does so knowing that we will both stumble, often. But the church is powerful. Remember what Jesus says to Peter:
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18
God has been building upon His church for millennia, adding to her number and strengthening her with believers firmly fixed on the Word of God. But she's not successful in her own rite. She's powerful and prevailing because Christ Himself has established her. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and Hades cannot overcome it. Christ's Bride is prevailing every day, despite the ways we see our sinfulness evident within her. God is building up His bride every day in a thousand ways unseen. He's not leaving her in a state of turmoil and brokenness. He is using her to push back the gates of hell. We see her missteps, and we're often directly hurt and impacted by them, but the church is still worthy of our love, diligence, and tender care.
It isn't infrequent that being a part of a local church is work. It's delicate work. It's work that requires us to be diligent and courageous. Though it takes work to live life in community with others, it is necessary, and it is good.
The church is worth being a part of. She is Christ Bride, God's instrument of His flourishing Kingdom here on earth. She is a community to be a part of. Within her are believers willing to run the distance of faith with you, elders willing to lead you toward holiness, and a supernatural family with which you share a heavenly bloodline. Fold yourself in. Do so with tenderness and care but fold yourself into the body of which Christ has given you to.