For many children and adults, a church is simply a building, a place to go on Sunday. I grew up in a devout, church-going family, and we were in church every Sunday. We attended St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Millard, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha.
But as I got older, my definition of church deepened. I became involved in a congregation, first as a church member and then as a pastor.
Those of us who have spent years within its doors realize that the church is far more than a building. In its simplest definition, the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). He is the vine; we are the branches (John 15:5). We are grafted together, growing and drawing nourishment from our heavenly Father. We are no longer to live as independent individuals but to be connected as one body, the church.
Now, when I think of the church, I think of the many times the church family has been present for my wife, Cheryl, and me. Just last year, the church provided nurture and love to our youngest son, Sawyer, and his wife, Karen. They were expecting their second child, a girl. Early in the pregnancy, medical tests showed severe chromosomal issues, indicating that she would not live after birth. They made the difficult decision to carry the baby as long as she lived, and we all hoped for the chance to meet her before she slipped into eternity.
At this time, Sawyer was in his final year in seminary. They were typical examples of a poor seminary student and family. This was going to be a serious expense, however. If the baby was born, medical costs would be enormous, followed by immediate funeral expenses. In addition, Sawyer and Karen needed support and encouragement to persevere—and we were 1,000 miles away.
During those difficult weeks and months, the church that Sawyer and Karen attend in Dallas joined together to meet their needs. Members and leaders in the church regularly prayed for and over the family. The church set up a fund to help defray the additional costs. People provided meals. The church provided pastoral support and encouragement each step of the way.
Ella Selah Nyquist was born and lived a short 38-minute life. She is now buried with love in a grave in central Michigan. For her, Sawyer, Karen, and all of our family, the church truly acted like the body of Christ. They met the needs of a hurting family. And I am truly grateful.