Kathy and I were privileged to speak in Price, Utah, at the Carbon Emery lectureship. This program affords brethren in that state a chance to be challenged by a specific topic while enjoying each others’ company. Never has the saying been true for us that we were the ones blessed for the time spent. Those in attendance were kind and complimentary, but we felt as though we saw something of what first-century Christianity must have been like. Brothers and sisters from about a half-dozen of the state’s total of no more than 17 churches (including two tiny house churches comprised of 1 family each and at least one congregation whose membership is 7 people) came together to consider faithfulness as well as evangelism against great odds.
The Christians in Utah understand great odds. Mormonism has a stranglehold throughout much of the state, even holding a decided financial and social advantage. So, typically, the Lord’s church, if it exists in a community and owns a building, meets in small, modest meeting houses that may feel grateful to have two dozen people present. The distance between most congregations, with the exception of Salt Lake City, is vast. Yet, though some traveled several hours to attend these lectures, they seemed to savor each moment together with fellow-Christians. Observing these brethren as they ate and visited together, I had the distinct sense that they cherished the likemindedness and common bond that truly drew them closely together
I am not saying that this depth of treasuring one another is missing in parts of this country where the church is numerically strong, but I wonder if being shunned and rejected by the majority of the community does not actually strengthen the tie that binds. As an “outsider,” made to feel very much a part of their spiritual family in the course of less than 48 hours, I left with a renewed gratitude for the relationships at my disposal with God’s people.
Attending worship is chiefly about praising and honoring God. Perhaps there is a level of duty associated with coming to various church functions and activities. Yet, our time together holds great potential as spiritual glue to bond us closer to each other. Does God want that? He must. Jesus taught the disciples, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).