Once a week I write a pastoral letter to the good people of the West Congregation of the Austin Stone Community Church. I will occasionally add some of those letters here.
Dear West Family
I can’t believe that we have been in Austin for two months already. We have loved our time so far, just getting to know the city, but more importantly getting to know this church family. We have prayed with many of you, eaten with a good number of you, visited and hung out with as many of you as this introvert could handle in the last 60 days or so. It has been fun, and terrifying, and marvelous, and Sue has only had to pry me out of the over-peopled induced fetal position two or three times. She may be slight of build, but she is surprisingly and usefully strong.
Seriously though, it has been an incredibly encouraging time, and part of what has been so encouraging to me is the diversity of gifting, personality, interest and background that I have encountered. I love getting into a church family and realizing that is actually made up of a number of people. It isn’t an amorphous mass beneath a singular leader or brand, but it is a body, with eyes, ears, arms, legs and even gall bladders (someone’s got to do it). It has reminded me of Romans 16, which I absolutely love. As Paul closes out his theological masterpiece, he starts to send greetings to the people he loves in that church, and you realize as you read it, that the church in Rome is made up of a number of very different people, all doing their bit. There is Phoebe, Prisca and Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus and June, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodian, the family of Narcissus, Tryphaena and Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus and his mom (who although isn’t named is apparently lovely), Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and some “brothers who are with them”, Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister and Olympas.
What a list!
It reads a bit in parts like the chemical makeup of an antibiotic, but it is beautiful to see so many names listed here and nowhere else in Scripture. These were just regular church people, doing their best in their local church, and Paul sees their value, and God sees their work, and their names are recorded in Scripture to remind us of that.
Friends, you are part of the wonderful makeup of this church, and you matter as part of it. God has wired you and gifted you and given you situations to shape you in just such a way so that you can be part of the healthy functioning of this body. Like Paul, I thank God for you by name, even though I may not be able to accurately connect your name with your face yet.
Be encouraged body. God is up to something, and you are an important part of it!
So much grace.