Recently I heard that the Church I was once a part of has renamed and has chosen to move in a different direction. I was introduced to Maranatha Christian Fellowship back in 1980 and became a member in 1981. For 27 years I walked in fellowship with many and for 14 years served on a pastoral/elders team in the Fellowship. For the first time in my experience of the Christian walk I was impacted by authentic Christianity of walking out the gospel of Christ of not just listening to teachings but the day to day accountability of action through discipleship. One of the true values of Maranatha Christian fellowship was Love; now I know we all use terminology that might use the same words but love is an action which involves not only experiencing the spirit of Love but the love generated from the Body of Christ. We cared for each other and challenged one another in our Christian walk before God in honesty and integrity of heart. There was a sense of family, a community of believers passionate for God, His Church and His Kingdom. We weren’t afraid to be transparent, allowing our hearts to be known. It was a safe place to be real and allow our defenses to be dropped. We had Elders that met with us regularly to not only address our spiritual understanding of scripture, but helped us change in the development of our character. Such a man was Bud Curtis who invested 10 years of his life in discipling me in these things. Nothing was off limits; at any moment he had the right to dive into the topic of character. We did not want a superficial Christianity, we weren’t trying to impress anyone but God and so the drive to live holy was one of internal motivation. Elder Bud Colvin was instrumental in leading me in my studies of scripture and the expression of the Spirit filled life, always driving me to dig deeper in searching out Christ. I can’t even think of all the time spent sitting in Bud’s Upholstery shop as he worked and he would teach me the Word and making it become alive to me. Elder David McKinney helped me to see the Kingdom of God and my place, purpose and function in the Kingdom. I felt a duty to live a holy life, to seek out the lost for Christ. David gave me my first opportunity of sharing the Word with the body. I spoke that day on John chapter 4. I’m sure it was a simplistic word from their point of view but it was a major issue for me that opened the door that has resulted in 30 years of ministry. We recognized the priesthood of every believer (1 Peter 2:9), and that every believer is a minister of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18).
I was introduced to the moving of the gifts of Spirit and the functions of Christ’s ministry through his Body and here again experiencing first hand New Testament expression of faith in practice.
Many people don’t believe that the structure of government within the church is important, or they may have the idea that you can pick one that fits your style. But I have learned firsthand why Christ never established a “Senior” or “Lead” pastor over His Church, rather He established the plurality of Elders, understand this principle of the Headship of Christ concerning his Body. The Elders of Maranatha Christian Fellowship submitted their lives to the Holy Spirit and to one another and worked as a team to hear the voice of The Pastor Jesus Christ and to move according to their ability of gifts and talents in shepherding the Body.
Many in the community saw the Church as demonstrating the Servitude of Christ. We where a Church to the unchurched in our community, reaching and touching the hurting and lonely in our community with the love of acceptance. I remember an individual from another church stating, “You guys do what the Bible says to do in going to the jails, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, taking care of the widows and orphans.”
During my time as an Elder I learned what covenant lifestyle means: humility, submission to authority, servitude, being a team player and forgiveness are all a part of the structure of a New Testament Church. But the most valuable lesson that I have walked away with is this: It is one thing to preach the cross of Christ, it becomes another to be put into a structure where one must live the cross of Christ. Only then can one truly experience the life that is promised by Christ.
Maranatha Christian Fellowship was far from being perfect, but we lived by the values that we felt were important to the New Testament Church Pattern. I thank God now I can take these values, examples, and visions and plant them into Christ’s Church so that fruit will come in due season as we are faithful to labor for the cause of Christ. To those precious saints that have planted the seeds in our hearts we say thank you and we shall carry the mantel to the next generation of believers.