by Leah Broach
As the director for children’s disciplemaking ministries at the Alliance National Office, I spend my days encouraging and equipping leaders of the local U.S. church toward discipling the next generation. Often, I am asked to give insight on successful ways to lead children toward resilient faith. And while there are many excellent tools and helpful curriculums that I happily share, I most often begin with the simplicity and beauty of the purpose of the Church.
Quieting the Noise
During my first summer after Bible college, I traveled to Spain where my family served as missionaries. While visiting, we took a small family vacation through the Basque Country of France, and I took some time alone one afternoon to wander through the streets of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The small village’s history and architecture seemed to whisper its stories on the wind, and I wanted to hear them all.
My walk took me right through the doors of a 14th-century church where I quietly observed an afternoon choir practice. The heavy fragrance of warm candle wax mingled with dust hung thick in the air. I took a seat in the antiquated pews and absorbed the details: the shuffle of elderly feet, the sun coming through small cracks around the windows, and the unfamiliar sounds of French words in acapella hymnody played out around me.
This sanctuary, clearly treasured by its people, was a light in the heart of the community. Welcoming smiles assured me that I was accepted in this space, and time became irrelevant. The atmosphere was warm and grounding, a sacred invitation to see God and His Church in a way that, until that moment, I had not.
This was an anxious time in my life because I had finished my studies and yet remained vastly unclear about the next journey I should take. I felt compelled to follow the Lord in service to Him, but I had no idea how it would look. My education centered on international missions and evangelism, yet somehow, I was perplexed at my role in it all. What did I have to offer the world? My ambition clamored for a platform, but this sanctuary hushed the noise.
The Communal Beauty of the Church
Sitting in the middle of a church that had survived more than 700 years uncovered the immature arrogance of my beliefs of personal influence. I was still but a child in the world, and while I believed God had uniquely gifted and called me to follow Him, I recognized that innumerable hosts of others, long before me, had taken up their cross so that I could one day find my own. I brought nothing new to the table, except my willingness to serve Him.
I noticed the beauty of the Church rested in the whole and not in the individual parts. In its collective of parishioners throughout time, this church painted a picture of the Bride of Christ impervious to the world, shining a bright light in this village.
I recognized that afternoon that heaven’s story was far more comprehensive than I could possibly understand. I pictured my own home church, nestled in the foothills of Appalachia, Tennessee, and I realized that the same thread of Christ’s love through the Church was woven everywhere Christ was proclaimed. The Church, Christ’s avenue of reaching the world, was His pathway for us to find our eternal home.
Jesus gives His believers His glory as we unite through Him in His Church. Our Savior’s holy force and promise is that the world will know Him by knowing us, His Church (see John 17:20–23). Through Him, His believers send an unparalleled message to a lost world, a lost generation, and a lost culture that the way home goes through the arms of the Church to the very heart of Christ.
The Cloud of Witnesses
Often, I hear stories of faith from believers across the country and world. And while each story is priceless and unmatched, it almost always overlaps into the local church’s story. Being led in truth to faith and repentance is the beginning, and being loved and carried by the local church is the balance. No two churches mirror one another in the same city, let alone the same culture, but the centrality of Jesus and the love that binds and survives through His people is the essence of nearly every testimony of faith. His Church leads the way for the lost to find their place in His Kingdom.
Resilient faith is ours through the saving work of Christ alone—and resilient living in that faith is framed by the Church, this broken Body of imperfect believers being made new by their Savior. This blessed Church of Jesus is known for its gripping love, and it compels us to follow Him and reflect Him. It is His love that binds us together with chords of grace to carry us home.
Christ said the world would know us by our love (see John 13:35). That world includes our children. They will judge the truth by the love they witness and the love they receive. They need the Church of Jesus to drench them in the love of Christ. The many hands and hearts of believers united, that cloud of witnesses, matters in the life of faith.
If we give the next generation the truth but do not give them the love of the Church, we have failed. If we have trainings and workshops but miss the gathering of the believers, we have cut short the blessings of belonging. The Church was breathed into existence by our outstretched Savior. He promised that the very gates of hell could not prevail against it, so we must be this glorious Bride of Christ standing impervious in our decaying world. And we must bring our children. If the world will know Him by our love, then how much more will our own children?
I often return in my mind to that historic church in France. I picture the faces of the people hundreds of years ago faithfully serving the Lord, never knowing their influence would reach me. And I am just one small story in a tapestry of others touched through the witness of this church. But that is precisely the way of the Church. It its the way of the collective influence of Jesus followers planting for a harvest they may never see, planting in love and trusting the Lord of the Harvest for the increase.
While our individual story matters tremendously in our walk with Christ, our collective witness in the Church is the bigger story of heaven. It is one that we will enjoy for eternity, the one where all the chords of love and faith lead us straight to the heart of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the story that leads us home.
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