The Church Together: Celebrating What Unites Us

I learned the simple song while sitting cross-legged on the nubby, brown-carpeted floor of the little Lutheran church I grew up in. In fact, I can hear the strum of Mrs. Ott’s guitar and her bright treble voice to this day:

I am the church! 
You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we're the church together!

The church is not a building,
the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place,
the church is a people.

We're many kinds of people,
with many kinds of faces,
all colors and all ages, too,
from all times and places.

I am the church! 
You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we're the church together!
 1

Maybe it’s not the most theologically-rich song in the world, but there’s a sweetness in that lyric that I need to hear—to believe—right now. I need to be reminded that all around the world, from eternity past to eternity future, we are one Body, united in Christ. I need to believe in the Church together. 

The Church Apart

For most of 2020, it seems we’ve been a Church apart. Take my own church for example: if you wanted to teach a lesson on the literary device of irony, you could write the story of my church this year. Every year our pastor chooses a theme to set the direction for our congregation. Our theme for 2020? “Going forward together.”

Very funny, COVID. 

March brought us virus-related closures, April brought the resignation of our senior pastor, and after he left, June brought our reopening for Sunday morning services—two services when we normally have only one. How’s that for “together”? July brought a pastoral search. August brought a controversial statewide mask mandate and subsequent controversial guidelines from our church leadership. The list goes on from there, but I’m sure you get the idea. We’ve been anything but “together.” And we’re just a blip on the radar screen of Christendom. 

The worldwide Church hasn’t fared much better. In addition to physical distance canceling conferences, ministry events, and missions travel, we’ve encountered wider than usual ideological gulfs within the Church over COVID restrictions, presidential candidates, and current events. 

We’ve confronted much apart, but as 2020 comes to a close, we must turn our eyes toward enduring together.

The Race We Cannot Run Alone

My friend Cindy Matson wrote

We each walk individually with God who will hold each one of us responsible for what we do with truth, how we respond to temptations, and how we steward the gifts He has given us. However, we also walk with God corporately. We cannot—we must not—walk alone. Our God, Himself three in one, created us in His image as people who flourish in community. 2

Cindy goes on to walk us through Hebrews 12:12–15, highlighting three essential reasons why we need one another so desperately in order to run the race of faith: 

  • We give each other strength (v. 12).
  • We help each other grow (vv. 14–15).
  • We’re prone to bitterness (v. 15).

Perhaps you’re tired of all the “better together” commercials from the COVID lockdown era of TV. But when it comes to Christ’s Church, it’s not just a sappy altruism; it’s what God had in mind when he plucked you out of sin and placed you in His family: 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19–22, emphasis added)

Enduring Together by Rejoicing Together

Our differences are real. The issues that are causing conflict within churches and within the Church are real and often foster hard, necessary conversations. The Father’s discipline (Heb. 12:7–11) sometimes results in a painful pruning, and the wounded branch needs time to heal. So the question remains, how can we endure together when we’re physically and ideologically miles apart? 

I don’t pretend to have the solution, but here at Revive Our Hearts, we’re going to do what we can to be a part of a solution. If we’re looking for conflict we’ll always find it, but what if for a while, we look for consensus instead? 

For the next couple of months, most Thursdays we’ll feature a new article shining a spotlight on the things that bind together the hearts of believers all over the world. We’ll celebrate the greatness of God, the majesty of His Son, the ministry of His Spirit, and the salvation of His people. We’ll take a break from focusing on what divides us and marinate in Who unites us. As we fix our gaze on Jesus, we’ll remember what it’s like to seek Him side-by-side. We’ll be the Church together. 

As a child I only learned the first two verses of that precious little song. Today I read two more: 

Sometimes the church is marching,
sometimes it's bravely burning,
sometimes it's riding, sometimes hiding,
always it's learning.

And when the people gather,
there's singing and there's praying,
there's laughing and there's crying sometimes,
all of it saying:

I am the church! 
You are the church! 
We are the church together! 
All who follow Jesus, 
all around the world! 
Yes, we're the church together! 
1

We don’t know what 2021 will hold for our churches or for the Church. Will we be marching? Burning? Singing? Crying? We don’t have to resolve every difference, but the time may come when those differences mean less and less because God’s people are under attack more and more. What then? We’ll need each other. Let’s be the Church together. 

1 Donald S. Marsh, “We Are the Church,” (Hope Publishing Company), accessed November 2, 2020, https://www.hopepublishing.com/find-hymns-hw/hw4145.aspx.

2 Cindy Matson, “We Must Endure Together,” Bible Study Nerd, October 5, 2020, https://biblestudynerd.home.blog/2020/10/06/we-must-endure-together/.

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About the Author

Laura Elliott

Laura Elliott

Born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Laura Elliott now serves the Lord alongside her husband, Michael, five sons, and one daughter in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Her passions include words, music, politics, cooking, and encouraging women to seek the God of Scripture in every season of life. Laura is a writer and vocalist, an occasional speaker, and the managing editor for Revive Our Hearts. In addition to the True Woman blog, Laura occasionally writes at shimmersome.com.

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