Wineskins Archive

January 13, 2014

AfterGlow: Impressing God (Mar – Apr 1996)

Filed under: — @ 2:39 pm and

by Phillip Morrison
March – April, 1996

We exchanged pleasantries once each week. Robert was a middle-aged postal clerk, determined to strictly enforce every rule in his thick book. I was a brash young preacher, dutifully mailing the 200 copies of the weekly church bulletin fresh from the hand-cranked mimeograph.

One of my youthful ambitions was to be a truly nondenominational Christian. I was comfortable with our Church of Christ label—after all, it was scriptural—but so were other designations. Armed with biblical precedent, I was determined to make a statement about our undenominational character. One week I would put “Church of Christ” in the return address space, another week “The Lord’s Church,” yet another week “Family of God.” No one seemed to notice—no one but Robert.

There came that fateful Thursday when Robert took the bundle from me, glanced at it, and asked, “What is the name of this church, anyway?” Completely ignoring the danger signal in his voice, I proceeded to enthusiastically describe the nature of Christianity. The more I talked, the more puzzled Robert looked. Then, with a slightly condescending smile, he said, “I don’t know what in the world you’re talking about, but if you want to continue mailing these bulletins at the non-profit bulk rate, you’d better decide what the name of this church is. And it had better be the same as the name on your permit.”

I surrendered on the spot. Right there in the lobby of the United States Post Office in Sumter, South Carolina, “Church of Christ” appeared in the proper place every week thereafter.

Though I capitulated to the demand of a postal clerk nearly four decades ago, I have struggled all these years to define and describe the church’s identity and character. Jesus thought enough of the church to purchase it with his blood and claim it as his own, but didn’t think it necessary to give it an official name.

Jesus had no time for quibbling about the exact wording of the name on the building or the bulletin. He was more concerned about how well his church lived out its mission and how it represented him.

In Matthew’s chapter 24 preview of the Judgment, Jesus wants to know whether we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, ministered to the sick, comforted the afflicted, encouraged the prisoners. The very things we prize—orthodoxy in minute matters—are the things that do not impress him.

Is it possible that our desire to impress others with our soundness has become more important to us than winning His favor? God forbid.Wineskins Magazine

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