I am sitting in a MacDonald’s Restaurant in beautiful Muskoka looking out at God’s amazing creation. At any time, Muskoka is a beautiful place but it is never more beautiful than the first few weeks of October. The leaves are turning, painting the trees an amazing blend of green, yellow, red and orange. God’s creativity is on vivid display and this is just the beginning. Over the next couple of weeks it is going to get even better.
God’s creativity takes so many different forms. I’ve stood on the shores of Lake Louise, flown over the Greek Islands, viewed the rugged majesty of the Alps, and been rendered speechless by a sunset in Southern Ontario. No one will ever convince me that such beauty is possible without an intelligent mind behind it.
This morning I attended Riverside Baptist Church in the town of Huntsville. For the past few months it has been our church family away from home. My father-in-law lives in a retirement home in Huntsville and the best time for us to visit with him has been on Sunday afternoons. We decided that rather than miss church we would find a church home in Huntsville. Riverside graciously became that church home for us. We leave home at 7:00 am and make the three and a half hour drive to be there for the start of their 10:30 am service. It has been one of the best decisions that we have ever made. We get to visit in the afternoon and still enjoy the beauty of a church service in the morning.
Like the beautiful world around us, the church is a creation of God. He loves it. He cares for it. He gave his Son to die for it. There is something incredibly beautiful about it. The church is not an accident of history that simply grew out of its humble origins in the first century into a worldwide movement today. It has been and always will be part of God’s plan for the redemption of humankind.
There is a lot that I don’t understand about the creation of the universe. I wasn’t there when God brought our world into existence and therefore there are many details that I just don’t know. I do know this. God made this world in which I live and for that reason the world ultimately belongs to him. He allows us to be part of it but none of it belongs to us. He created it. He sustains it. We are just stewards of what he owns.
The church also is a creation of God and ultimately he owns it as well. I get the wonderful privilege of being part of it. I benefit from the blessings that go along with that. The bottom line though is that as a leader I am just a steward in the church given the responsibility of shepherding those whom God entrusts into my care.
God loves variety
A forest in which every tree turned the same colour would be interesting but not particularly beautiful. The leaves are at their best when the bush has the oranges and reds of the maple tree, the yellow of the poplars with a few evergreens mixed in to provide a touch of green. God loves variety and our world is at its most beautiful when God displays that variety in his creation.
God has displayed his love for variety in the church as well. Churches come in all sorts of sizes. They have different government structures. They range all over the theological continuum on every topic. They have different programs, different ethnic makeups, different demographic settings and different hopes and goals. I don’t profess to know the mind of God but I have to wonder if just maybe God planned it that way. Maybe variety was part of God’s plan for his church from the very beginning.
One thing that I am certain of is that God did not plan that every local church would look alike. If he made everything else in a way that it displays his love of variety, why would the church be any different. Every Canadian loves to see a robin in the spring but we would soon get tired of robins if that was the only kind of bird there was. I lived not far from Lake Huron, one of the great lakes but I grew up on a small lake in Northern Ontario. I would have missed a lot of the fun of my childhood if the great lakes were all there was.
The world would be a poorer place if every church had to be the same. I love the fact that every church is different. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to become something other than what you are. I’m not saying that you should not strive to become better than you are but you don’t have to strive to become different than you are.
The maple tree in the fall is a beautiful tree with its orange or red leaves. The poplar is also beautiful all dressed in yellow. The oak tree has its own unique look with its brownish red leaves. The forest is beautiful not when all of those tree become like each other so that there is one universal look to every forest. It is beautiful when they all maintain their uniqueness and blend together in such a way that their variety creates a montage of colour.
Your church is beautiful not when you become like someone else but when your church adds its beauty to the mix of unique colours that makes up God’s church around the world.