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January 24, 2015 by William H. Scarle , Jr. 813-835-0129

At present I am serving on the Pastor Search Committee of my congregation here in Tampa.  In interviewing candidates we have a series of questions we ask concluding with an invitation for the person being interviewed to ask us any questions he or she might have for us.  The other evening we got an interesting inquiry.  “What do each of the committee like about your church?”   While it is fresh in my mind I thought I would share a few observations that may apply generally to congregations of Christians.

My first observation about my present assembly is that we love each other.  We are not all the same.  We come from many different backgrounds and cultures, but we have a unity of spirit that we believe comes from the Holy Spirit.  We take care of each other.  We solve problems together.  We fall in line to help each other in times of need.  I believe this is what Jesus was talking about in John 13 when he said, “Love one another as I have loved you…By this will al men know that you are my disciples.”  In the 60’s the term “God’s forever family” was coined.  We understand this.  We are not perfect.  But, we understand this.

The next thing I like about my “ekklesia,” my assembly, is their regard for the authority of the Scriptures.  I come from Baptist tradition in the North, so I am always a bit leery in referring to Southern traditions.  However, when the Bible is read in our worship services we stand in respect for God’s Word.  At the conclusion of the reading the reader will say, “The Word of the Lord,” and the congregation will respond, “Thanks be to God.”

We don’t make a point of a particular theology of biblical inspiration, although I suppose we could do that if called upon.  We simply accept the authority of the Bible as coming from God and as profitable for teaching, rebuking and correcting.

In connection with this we put a heavy emphasis on Bible teaching and learning.

A third characteristic of my present congregation is its sense of mission.  We don’t do everything well.  There are some things we would like to do better.  However, some things we do exceedingly well.  We have learned to see community needs and have developed programs to meet these needs in the spirit of our Lord who taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  To describe these efforts would take more space than I have, but we are serving the fatherless, the hungry, the homeless, and the needy in several ways.  We also support in full a medical missionary overseas.

These characteristics are not unique to my present fellowship of believers.  They are the basic characteristics of most Christian churches.  They conform to what we have been taught by Jesus, who we see as Lord of the Church, among many other things.  However, they do not come naturally to us.  As failed humanity we have a tendency toward selfishness, rebellion and self-service.  So, when we are aware of love, submission to divine authority, and ministry to outsiders we recognize that God is doing something in our midst, and this is a cause for rejoicing.  I am sure this reflects the feelings of many of my readers.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at END-whs