Many times, I have stood in church and sung the words, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” Of the many pictures of the church given in Scripture, this image has always been one of my favorites. The Bible portrays church as a family-brothers and sisters gathered together for love, support and encouragement.
Tragically, this is often not true of the church in today’s world. For many people, church is only a place to fulfill their religious duty. In some places, the church resembles a war zone. Love and strong supportive relationships are nowhere to be found. As I visit churches, I always observe how quickly people leave after a service. While it is not foolproof, that simple action often tells a great deal about the fellowship of a church. It reveals whether the church is a family that loves to spend time together or just a gathering of detached people doing their “church thing.”
Since I am in a different church almost every week, I have ample opportunity to experience the differences between just being in the midst of a gathering and the enjoyment of being with family. What a joy when I find a group that expresses the essence of what it means to be the family of God! That happened to me a few weeks ago when I was privileged to visit Okchamali Baptist Church, Connerville (actually outside of Connerville).
From the moment I turned into the parking lot, I sensed the warmth of love and the presence of the Holy Spirit. While the name Okchamali is Choctaw, the church is located in the Chickasaw Nation. When the family gathered for worship, I was amazed to find a multiethnic congregation. This family loved everybody, and all were welcomed and included.
The auditorium was filled to overflowing, and when the music started, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. They sang choruses and hymns, and sing they did! But the best was yet to come. We were told to open our Heavenly Highways hymn book, and what had preceded could not match the energy and harmony of hearing these folks sing the old songs.
We had dinner on the grounds, which is always my favorite thing! At lunch, I sat with some inmates from a correctional institution. This church brings a group each week, and they have reached several for Christ. The guy who sat across from me was from Skiatook, my home town-not a good thing, but I was glad he was in church. The fellowship going on in that room was wonderful. They just kept sitting there talking, laughing and in no hurry to leave.
After lunch, the pastor and I went outside. The church yard was filled with children and young people. They were riding horses, playing games and taking rides in a makeshift train made of metal drums cut in half and pulled by a riding lawn mower. Everyone there was having unhurried fun. It was like an old-time family reunion!
On my way back to the city, I could not help but hum the little chorus, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” I had experienced a fading, but beautiful picture of God’s family, similar to what I have read about in the New Testament. It was wonderful and joyous to behold.