On most Sunday mornings as I am worshipping with a particular NAB congregation somewhere in either Canada or the United States—or occasionally on one of our mission fields—I find myself remembering that I am spiritually linked with 400 other NAB congregations filled with sisters and brothers in Christ who are worshipping the same God through the empowerment of His Spirit. At the same time, I regularly remember that I am also connected spiritually with millions upon millions of church goers who are gathering around the world to praise God, hear the Word, and find encouragement to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel in their locations. Most Sundays, the thought of worshipping collectively with the global church gives me joy, knowing that an anthem of praise sung around the world is being lifted to the glory of God.
Yesterday though, my joy was turned to sorrow as I heard the news that one of those churches that sing in the global chorus of praise had their worship violently interrupted by a gunman. At least 26 people were killed on Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, a Southern Baptist church, about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio, Texas. In a few dark moments of violence and offense, bullets silenced the voices of our sisters and brothers in Christ.
We, as Baptists, hold firmly to the autonomy of the local church. There are times though—and I believe this is one—when we must remember that we are part of a wider family of believers. It would be good and right for us to mourn deeply in the next days, as we reflect on those in the body of Christ who were killed and as we pray for the earthly families and the local community that are mourning intensely. Let us grieve that sin and sickness still inflict this world and devastate the people that God so graciously created for His purposes.
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
In the eternally fulfilled Kingdom, believers from every time and geographical location will sing in a unified anthem of praise to God. Our sisters and brothers from Sutherland Springs will participate in that chorus. For now though, let our ears hear the silence emanating from their particular section of our choir, and may we mourn together.