Many little girls strive to achieve this fantasy as they grow into women. They design their big day around the plan they've been brewing for a lifetime. It's a lot of work with little chance of living up to the expectation. But something serious is missing--the groom.
How easy is it find a bride-to-be tasting cake, picking flowers, and planning the ceremony with the groom-to-be simply in tow? How often do we hear, "this is the bride's day?" I've been know to say those very words to stressed out grooms. It seems exhausting on the bride and taxing on the groom.
As I've been 'playing at church,' or rather, working to build a core team to start another Christian congregation in the Salt Lake valley, I've felt as though our little baby church plant is like the little girl dreaming of her wedding day. Our team is 'trying it on' with ambition and aspiration, but often what we're looking to is the trappings of the local church, not the Groom who calls the Church his bride.
It's so easy to be busy. It's easy to chase after the 'stuff' of the local church. Growing leaders desire to have people fellowshipping in their homes with little understanding the fellowship the Bible actually calls for. We want to build systems that get people connected to our congregation but we don't fully grasp the necessary connection to God's Kingdom. We want to be heard as wise but are unsure about our willingness to truly get into the messiness of real lives. We (certainly myself included) get excited about graphics and colors and chair arrangements and sound systems and forget that none of these things have eternal significance. Potential preachers want to stand in the pulpit and preach a good sermon with little thought of the shepherding and care that the pulpit demands. All of this is because we hold to a worldly view of the marriage we have with Jesus. At times we're putting the dream before the reality; we're assembling a wedding day without the Groom.
The Bible provides us with a picture of a bride and a groom. We are the bride and Jesus is the Groom.
Ephesians 5:25-27 charges the husband to love his wife, but it also gives us a beautiful picture of Christ's love for his bride. It reads, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (ESV).
Jesus makes his bride beautiful!
How much more joy might the Bride of Christ have if we would get our priorities right? How much more beautiful would the local church be if Christ were truly our passion and the 'stuff' came second or third or somewhere else down the line? The stuff is so tempting because we often want all eyes on us as we desire the community around us to look at our local congregations and say, "isn't it beautiful" or "isn't this church cool." Too often church leaders and preachers (myself included) want people to say, "Wow, great sermon" or "yes, I really like the _________ here" (fill in the blank with your favorite 'stuff').
While it is so easy to say and so hard to do, I believe it's critical that we dump our dreams and fantasies of what the local church should be and look to Jesus because he is not only the groom, he is the Head of the Church. Jesus is our senior pastor. And the Senior Pastor cares little for the 'stuff' and much for you and me, his bride.
(If you'd like to see more about what God's Word says about Christ and the Bride, here are some chapters to get you started: Psalm 45; Isaiah 62; Matthew 25; Mark 2; Revelation 19, 21, and 22.)
*Photo by Amy Ann Brockmeyer is used with permission.