She holds open the door for my family and me. Our feet crunch on salted concrete, typical of Midwest winters so sidewalks don’t freeze, then we stomp off rock salt from our shoes and enter. We’re transported from subzero temps to 70 degrees in the church foyer, where Ryan, she’s a greeter, says hello and jokes about the Iowa weather. My family and I head to different locations, middle school upstairs, high-schoolers gather near the donut table before worship, and our kindergartener checks in on the iPad at the registration counter. After we find seats and I turn my attention to words on the screen as we sing, I wonder, did I return Ryan’s greeting? She’s from a state where palms and flamingos decorate yards, but she’s on the regular rotation as greeter and welcomes us by opening the door open against a blast of wind-chill. Does she do this to belong, or because she knows what it’s like to be a stranger? I then consider the diverse mix of people at church who serve, and later scribble out mini vignettes to celebrate the faithful.
Laurie: She connects people. Countless of friendships among women began inside these church walls from her collaboration. She’s a local, but her time living away from her hometown acquainted her with solitude. She says this propels her to help connect others. Her identity in Christ makes forgiveness and acceptance something she wears like an emblem pinned to Facebook posts and the greetings or hugs she gives to young moms, newcomers, or outcasts. Once, after hearing of a friend’s miscarriage, Laurie had bakery-made cupcakes delivered to her on the lamented due date. Laurie leads church’s preschool ministry and knows every family’s name. She keeps track of the children’s birthdates and mails them a postcard.
Jen: She’s a quality engineer for construction equipment and a project manager. She solves problems and uses logic. When she has extra, she thinks, who at church can I share this with? She works a full day, and then sits at a round table as Mentor on evenings when young moms gather. Her heart is for these women to grow together in knowing Jesus. A few decades ago, this same ministry was what first brought Jen through the church doors.
Martha: She’s an organizer, a teacher, and a caretaker of the rescue pets her four children collect. Her heart is for women to be encouraged. She’s the first to start a group text to promote community, and she often models transparency and a repentant heart, which encourages others to do likewise. She helped her daughter’s hand-crafted earrings sell on Facebook, then planned to donate a portion to fund coats for local families in need. She gave away her brand-new copy of Gentle and Lowly to a woman in small group who wanted to grow in knowing Christ.
Kerry: She sings on the worship team, and as she makes a joyful noise to the Lord, she leads others to sing about our great God. Her heart is for her husband to know the peace that comes from Jesus. She prays for his friendships and she stays quiet when she’s tempted to preach or criticize. While her husband isn't open to attending church on Sundays, together they've found community in a small group Bible study. During a difficult season, he asked this small group to pray.
These examples boast not of extravagant deeds, but noteworthy deeds because they display faithfulness. It’s not to be confused with pious acts to earn God’s favor, nor to earn the praise of peers. Rather, each woman in the above vignette responds in faith because of the good news of Jesus.
The closing song* the church worship team plays wraps up this gospel message.
When sin’s stern shadow
Marred, entangled me
Separate from a God,
So holy, so clean
Yet Jesus, worthy
As both God and man
Bridged the gap
None other can
The cross, I’d heard
But hadn’t yet counted
God’s love, the cost
For mercy abounded
Then praise and gladness
Rang out as I turned
United with Jesus
Given freely, unearned
After church, I play the song in the car to savor Jesus as we drive home.
Because of what Jesus has done for humanity, a response makes sense. Because these women love Jesus, they do small things that build one another up. Because of Jesus, well, the list could go on.
Timothy Keller says, “we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that remains alone. That is, we are saved by Christ’s atonement, apart from any merit or goodness in us. But genuine faith in Christ will always result in a grateful joy that produces life change” (God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life, p 47).
What are the faithful doing in your own church?
*Song my own poetry in place of actual worship song for copyright reasons, and some names of actual characters have been changed to fictional names.