This weekend, I’m heading to West Springfield, Massachusetts.
“A winter getaway?” you might be asking.
Hardly. The forecast high temperature for Saturday is zero (Celsius, thankfully). It’s not going to be short-pants weather by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m excited to be going.
Why? Because West Springfield, Massachusetts is the home of the “Big E”, the Eastern States Exhibition grounds. And the Big E plays host each January to North America’s largest model train show. And when I say “largest”, I’m not exaggerating: this show takes up four buildings, each of which would average out to be the size of a typical Canadian community centre (rink and all).
Think about it: four community centres filled with model train layouts, displays and vendors in every size and scale. It’s a sort of “hobby heaven”, if you will.
I could just go and gawk. The first time I attended this show, I walked around all day with my jaw dragging on the cold concrete floors. I couldn’t believe that Our Humble Little Hobby had so many people involved. And because I had no plans, I missed some displays, while mysteriously walking past others several times.
This time, though, I’ve learned my lesson: not only will I wear my best walking shoes, I have printed off a list of vendors I want to visit, and a map that shows where each will be located. I’ll wander, to be sure, but I will also plan out my Saturday so that I make the best use of my time – shopping a bit, yes, but looking at layouts so I can learn some new trips and tips for the HO-scale empire I’m building in my own basement.
How many of us live our life of faith the way I spent my first trip to the Big E? How many of us profess our faith in Christ, and then walk around without plans for our spiritual development?
God invites us to be intentional about our growth in the Lord. And one thing we quickly learn when we seek to become more mature Christ-followers is that it’s virtually impossible to do alone.
That’s why we need the church.
Contrary to popular belief, being part of the church really isn’t an option for the growing believer. You can’t have Jesus without the church anymore than you would invite me to dinner at your house and not expect me to bring my wife: you can’t have one without the other. The church is the bride of Christ, and they come as a package. The apostle Paul told the believers at Colossae that the church universal, and its leaders specifically, have a special responsibility: “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect (or mature) in their relationship to Christ” (Colossians 1.28, NLT with footnote).
It’s the church – imperfect as it is – that helps us walk through our life of faith with a plan for growth.
When I first attended the big show at the Big E, I attended with a friend who had been there before. He ‘mentored’ me as I walked around the show, in awe of the sheer volume of stuff and number of people. And this year, I’m bringing two friends who have never been there. It’s going to be a blast.
So, how are you doing at mapping out your walk with God? And are you taking anybody new along with you?
If those questions leave you flustered, talk to a leader in your church about them. The church’s job is to help you! And God will be honoured with your effort, offered in faith.