A question to consider: what are you looking for in a church?
We're living in an age of unprecedented "church shopping," where persons are jumping from one congregation to another in search of...something. Sometimes, persons are looking for a pastor. They're looking for someone more dynamic or less charismatic or more practical or less cultural or whatever it is. Sometimes, they are looking for music. They prefer the guitar or the organ or just the human voice. Sometimes, they are looking for programming. They want a strong children's ministry or a good single's ministry or specialized small groups for fill-in-the-blank populations.
Sound familiar? Of course it does; these are the things we've come to judge our churches by. But what if none of these was the way to choose a church? What if you weren't in a church because of its pastor or playlist or programs?
Hear these words from Jeremiah 23:3: And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have drive them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
Notice here what the Lord says, the pronouns He uses when He talks about the day when He brings His people back to Him. He doesn't say He will return the people to His folds; He says He will return them to their folds. Even this people who are scattered among the nations, this people in exile, this people far from home still have their folds, and that's where they're going when He brings them back.
In other words, every one of God's sheep has their fold, the group into which they belong.
We're not much of an agrarian society any more, so let's talk about this. The sheepfold was a pasture, usually a good pasture, surrounded often by some kind of natural barrier like a rock wall that kept the sheep inside of it to graze. And these folds were defined, named, known by the sheep that were in them. Sheep did not just wander from one fold to another at their own whim and will. They went to their fold, where their flock grazed under their shepherd.
Billy doesn't just leave his fold. He can't. It's his. That's where all his peeps are.
Here's the truth I'm getting at, somewhere in all this sheep talk: our communities are not defined by their pastors or their music or their programming, as much as it seems like maybe they are. They are defined by their people. Our folds are identified by who is inside of them with us.
So if you want to find your fold in the world, all you have to do is look for your people. Look for your community. Look for your friends and the people you can do life with. Look for the companions and the fellow disciples that make your faith vibrant.
Because here's the truth: pastors, playlists, and programs, they all change. All the time. People...are the one chance that we have as a constant in the church. They're the one opportunity we have to stick together. And one of the troubles we have is that as we chase pastors and playlists and programs, we become people who move, too, and then the church isn't the church any more; we've let the changing nature of our structures determine the nature of our churches. We've let our preferences move the walls.
But if we become a people who stay in our folds, a people who are a people with their own place, no matter what changes around us, then we become a people of God drawn back to Him. We become a people fenced in by a Rock wall that defines our pasture. We become a people doing life together in a powerful way, as a living witness to the world around us. We, the people, become truly the church, whether we have a pastor or a playlist or a program at all.
The Lord your God has called you to your fold. The question is: where your peeps at?