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Preaching God’s Word Transforms Our Community

M a r l e n e J a m e s

Ionly knew that going to church was the right thing to do.

For generations my family attended church. But despite our regular church attendance when I was growing up, I can’t recall a time I felt the church was a community. I didn’t know Christ and didn’t understand that I needed Him to have eternal life.

When I got married and had children, my husband, Napoleon, and I were still in that same mindset. Some Sunday mornings, we took our children to church, but our hearts were not in the church.

Eventually, the Lord redirected our path, and we started attending a Church of the Nazarene. We didn’t have any clue as to why we were there. We only knew that through our 10-year-old daughter’s eagerness to attend Bruton Terrace Church after vacation Bible school, we ended up in that church.

The pastor was Rev. Harol Wright. The year was 1989. The first Sunday we attended, I understood the preached Word for the first time, and my heart was affected. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew something was different.

Shortly after we visited Bruton Terrace, Pastor Wright came to our house and led us to the Lord, right there in our living room. A minister had never visited our home before, so this alone was special to us. We continued to attend Bruton Terrace, and later that year, our family joined the Church of the Nazarene. As we grew in the Lord, our love for the church also grew. We became connected with other believers. We felt like we had been adopted into a new family.

It wouldn’t be truthful for me to say that everyone there treated us like family. When we were around some people, we felt like we did not belong. We did not look like them; we

were a different race. Perhaps they thought that though God’s Word was for us, we just didn’t belong as part of their church family. However, it’s beautiful the way the Lord worked His plan through those who did treat us like family, loved us, and accepted us as we were. We grew to serve in many areas of the church as we partnered in prayer with the congregation. This church was a great representation of a community of believers, and 30 years later, we are still grateful to be a part of this community.

Tr a n s f o r m at i o n i n O u r Co m m u n i t y

Today, I serve as senior pastor of Bruton Terrace Church of the Nazarene. I do my best to follow the plan that Jesus established for His Church. I often remember those church members who chose to follow Jesus in His demonstration of relational and racial reconciliation, accepting us into their spiritual family. Unfortunately, they lost friends for making this decision, but I believe the Kingdom grew because of their choice. Many members left the church because they were not ready for a diverse congregation, but others came into the church, including my mother, siblings, and friends. This opened the door for us to become an even more diverse community of believers. Through the work of Christ in this church, many accepted Jesus as their personal Savior for the first time. Several of these new believers joined Bruton Terrace Church, and some are still serving there today. Lives were transformed through this community of believers who obeyed the voice of the Lord. A transformed life is a life that will help build community in the church and give hope for the future.

Today, the Bruton Terrace neighborhood has changed, and that change has affected the church. The church continues to have a diverse congregation, unified as one in Christ. Lives and relationships are being transformed as God’s Word is preached, and the Lord is still moving both within the church walls and outside.

Pr e ac h i n g Rec o n c i l i at i o n

Preaching God’s Word is essential in the relationships of His people and in their life transformation. Rev. Harol Wright demonstrated the power of preaching as a tool for building community, even across racial barriers.

Jesus’ mission does not stop at restoring a right relationship between the Father and those He created. His mission includes building right relationships among His followers. When the Church fosters right relationships, we are fulfilling the purpose of Christ. God’s preached Word, when lived out, will help the Church accomplish her mission because the Word is alive and active in God’s people. Regardless of differences, when believers partner with one another and submit to God, they become Jesus to a lost and dying world.

Through Jesus, a great community of believers was formed because He demonstrated true love and kindness. Jesus cared for those around Him. He cared when they were sick, so He healed them. He cared when they were hungry, so He fed them. He cared when they were hurt or discouraged, so He spent time with them. He cared about the lost, so He taught them. The Lord calls the Church to represent Him in these ways.

Just as Rev. Wright preached before me, I now preach that the Church must reconcile any relational issues in order to reconcile the world to Christ. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17–18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

We must practice this within the church if we want to make a difference for those outside of the church. In verse 20 of the same chapter, Paul pointed out that we are ambassadors for Christ, and he implored the believers to be reconciled to God. The gospel message is

Through Jesus, a great community of believers was formed because He demonstrated true love and kindness .

carried outside of the church when the way we communicate with one another inside the church mirrors Christ. Believers are the Church walking around in the everyday world. Jesus instructed His disciples to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). The Church is called to teach and live God’s Word, loving and living for one another, even when it involves racial reconciliation. We must represent the Lord well. Some people will not welcome the Lord’s life-giving voice. Some will prefer the voice of the world around them. Jesus warns us of this in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. But those who listen and submit to the Lord’s plan, as written in His Word, will reap a harvest of faith. They are the ones who will work together to make the community of believers victorious in our Savior’s eyes.

Preaching God’s Word is a powerful tool for transforming lives and forming disciples who will make a difference in the local church and community. But we must pair preaching God’s Word with a willingness to live obediently to the Word. It takes people who have been relationally transformed to care about the lives of all people, as Christ did, and to represent Jesus in the church and in our communities. Our purpose is to follow Christ and point others to Him, no matter their background and no matter if they are just like us. Then we will live out the admonition in John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

MARLENE JAMES serves on the Northeast Texas District as pastor of Bruton Terrace Church, Women’s Ministry Director, and Board of Ministry member. She also serves on the Pleasant Grove Ministerial Alliance Committee.