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A good fit.


More and more people rely on an intangible "good fit" when addressing many life issue decisions. The neighborhood needs to be a "good fit". A potential job move is often measured by the manner that the people, environment, values, and mission of the organization fit the particulars of a candidate. A first visit to the doctor's office determines whether or not his or her medical expertise, people skills, and ability to communicate are a "good fit" for us. Over the past few years I've heard quite a few church people talk about finding the right fit in a church choice as well. It all reminds me of purchasing a new pair of jogging shoes a couple of months ago. After my first slog (translate slow jog for us geezers), which is something I do every day, i knew they were a bad fit. They were the correct size, had all the arch support and sole mechanisms I could have wanted, and were trendy in their sleek look. But, during my first slog in them my feet ached to the point I quit after only two miles. What I finally discovered was that they were uncomfortable. Get it? Sometimes we equate "good fit" with comfort. A "good fit" church for many moderns is one that is comfortable.

Harriet and I have only joined two churches that i did not pastor, one when we first married, and a second when I was employed by the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Our other four church memberships were in churches that had called me to serve as their pastor. Years ago we had decided that we would never pastor a church that we would not join. In our nearly forty five years of marriage and church life together, the fit or comfort of a church was never a prime consideration. This meant that comfort was never the decision point when making a church decision, either as a member or to be the pastor. Sure, there were concerns about mission, doctrine, governance, relationships, expectations, and a long list of intangibles to inform our decision making. But, comfort was never the number one factor in making church decisions. Finding a "good fit", if comfort was to define it, was never at the top of our church priority list.

That's a smack upside the head for a culture obsessive about comfort. We've become touchy-feely in most of our relational commitments, church included. The church doesn't have a country club image today for no reason. Even so, there's little biblical support for making the feel of something the primary factor in the most important elements of life. Education isn't always going to feel good. Parenting at times moves us beyond what feels, tastes, or sounds pleasing. And, church is, at least in my limited opinion, another one of them. My reading of the Bible makes me think that church is supposed to be slightly uncomfortable. Living our faith is a challenge that positions us at odds against the popular feel of life. Church should be a place of growth, learning, biblical training, and often confrontation. Yes, fellowship among believers should be comforting, encouraging, understanding, and provide many layers of support and fulfillment. There's also, however, truth about discipline, sharing truth in love, admonishment, biblical expectations, and correction. And, this stuff doesn't always feel good. It's not always comfortable. The lessons of endurance, steadfastness, spiritual discipline, persistence, watchfulness, and so much more are certainly grace provisions of a loving and redeeming God. He has given them to me at times on the potter's wheel where his touch shapes me in the image of Christ. On occasion he has given them to me on the anvil of his grace where the lessons are hard and perhaps difficult.

"Good fit" in a church must be more than a comfort zone. My jogging shoes may be another very feeble illustration. They're not a good fit because they have the right look or even because they feel comfortable on my feet. In my mind they are a 'good fit" when they allow me to go the distance in my daily run. In my book, for what it's worth, a "good fit" at church happens when the church equips and enables me to fulfill Christ's calling my my life. It's when my position in the body of Christ realizes genuine worship, Bible teaching, personal witness, the many layers of Christian fellowship, and service to God and others. A "good fit" church is where mission is central and the many other elements of church life pursue and accomplish it. It's about God changing me. That isn't always comfortable.

Harriet and I have been blessed. Every church we've joined or served has been a "good fit" when assessed beyond mere comfort. In the final analysis this "good fit" history has been in spite of us and the other humans that have shared life with us. Reading through 1 Corinthians 12 I am reminded that God arranges the members of the body, every one of them, just as he chooses (1 Corinthians 12:7). This working body is a miracle of God's design and functioning. He really arranges and sustains the "good fit" that is possible when flawed humans gather for even such noble purpose. And, when there are "fit" issues, like in the church at Corinth, he gives us 1 Corinthians 13.

That's when "fit" as defined by God happens, because "love endures all things"

(1 Corinthians 13:7), even our desire for another comfort zone.

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