When we say the word, “church,” people often think of a white building with a tall steeple and stained glass doors. Or maybe a more modern building comes to mind. One with a stage and stacking chairs, rather than an ornate altar and pews.

But the Bible says the church isn’t a building. The church is a gathering of people to lift up and exalt the name of Jesus — to make Him known to the nations. The church is the bride of Christ. It’s you and me.

Yet, the church can be messy. She can be confusing. She can get lost on her journey.  Some of us have grown up in church, and we look back with fond memories of Sunday school classes and youth group. For others, when we remember the church, it’s a nightmare. Maybe the church represents a pastor who taught about rules rather than a relationship with God. Perhaps the church brings back memories of a conflict that was never resolved.

In the midst of our different experiences, we can follow Jesus’ example in praying for the church. In John 17:20-21, Jesus said: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Jesus prayed for us. He prayed for the unity of the followers of Jesus. He prayed we would get along. He prayed we would be a community of people who would support, pray and forgive.

He prayed we would be unified in our love for Him and for others. He not only prayed we would have unity, but that through our love for one another, others would believe in Him.

What if over the next 40 days leading up to Easter we committed as one to read through the book of John and to pray for one another?  What if we gathered two or three others around us for the next 40 days to encourage one another to study the Word of God together?  What if we would set aside the next 40 days to confess and repent of the mess and bad decisions we have made in our lives?

All of us have something in common. We all need a Savior. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all made bad decisions. All of us can reflect on our lives and see where we have gone wrong. What if we took the next 40 days and spent time with God asking Him to speak to us, to lead us and to change us?

In the midst of the mess, the church has the greatest message people can hear — Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Through Jesus Christ, we can have forgiveness of sin and eternal life. We can always have hope because Jesus is alive.

John Stott says, “It is by the gospel that the church exists and by the church that the gospel spreads.”

Let’s go on a 40 day journey together. Let’s encourage one another to keep going when we want to quit. Let’s pray for one another when we are afraid of what is coming our way. Let’s challenge one another when life gets tough. Let’s go on this 40 day journey together and become the church God called us to be.

Pastor Ronn Smith