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  • Shawn Thornton

Thankful for the Local Church

Updated: Nov 20

Thursday - November 19th

Day 19: Attitude of Gratitude

Scripture to Read Today: Hebrews 10:19-25

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together,

as some are in the habit of doing,

but encouraging one another—

and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25


God blesses us with local churches, like Calvary Community Church, so we can have a setting to worship, grow, and serve together with other brothers and sisters in Christ. For the first eighteen years of my life, I attended Twin Branch Bible Church in my hometown of Mishawaka, Indiana. My parents, my brother, and I were deeply involved in this wonderful body of believers. We went to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and any other night something was happening at Twin Branch.


About two to three hundred people attended the Sunday morning service in my home church. The people of that church family taught me God's Word as a child, equipped me to serve in my teen years, and supported my call to ministry. With the craziness of our home being affected by my mom's traumatic brain injury (TBI), Twin Branch Bible Church became a safe haven in the storm. It was the rock, the solid ground on which we could stand. I have such fond memories of my time growing up among the kind folks of Twin Branch.


During my college years, my then-girlfriend and now wife, Lesli, and I attended Daniels Bible Church in West Virginia. Like my home church in Indiana, the church family at Daniels opened their arms to us. We grew in the Lord while engaging in the life and ministry of Daniels Bible Church. For about nine months between college and seminary, I pastored a little church of about fifty people. Glenview Independent Church up on a mountain ridge outside Beckley, West Virginia, welcomed me with open arms. They loved on me and taught me a lot about what I yet needed to learn in seminary. Check out the included picture of Lesli and me in front of the church in May of 1990.


After Lesli and I were married in June of 1990, I began seminary. During my seminary days, Lesli and I attended Granite Baptist Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland. As a third-grade teacher in their private Christian school, Lesli was required to attend Granite Baptist. Granite was a very conservative church. Lesli and I were allowed to teach the two and three-year-old Sunday School class, but nothing more. They questioned whether my seminary (Capital Bible Seminary in Washington, D.C.) was fundamentalist enough for their tastes. I guess the leadership of the church felt I could do no harm in teaching preschool children. Lesli and I enjoyed teaching these little ones. We were newly married and had no children yet. It was fun for us.


After seminary, I served in my first pastoral role as an assistant pastor at Limerick Chapel in Philadelphia's western suburbs. We started our family while at Limerick - our son Jon was born while we were there. God then called us back to our alma mater, Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia. While there, God blessed us with our daughter Katie. We served as members of Faith Baptist Church near the college.


God then led us to the state Capital of Charleston. I served for eleven years as the Senior Pastor of Bible Center Church. Megan, our youngest child, was born while we were there. I cannot say enough about how God used the incredible people of Bible Center to speak into my life and ministry and our family. In 2008, we left Bible Center as God called us to California. Since that time, I have served as the Senior Pastor here at Calvary Community Church. Again, I cannot even begin to explain how much Calvary has meant to me personally and how much it has meant to our family.


God has blessed me with phenomenal local churches throughout my life. None of them were perfect. All of them had issues. After all, I was there. But, each local body of believers sought to love God more, love people more, and love more people. They invited us into their worship, fellowship, and service for our Lord. Whether I was on staff or a part of the broader congregation, God used my engagement with my brothers and sisters in Christ to teach me, shape me, and equip me to live and love like Jesus!


Calvary continues to impact my life and ministry. Writing out my history with local churches through my life for this devotional has blessed me. As I wrote a little bit about each, a smile crept across my face. My mind went to specific people and particular ministries that God used in my life. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us how important it is for us to hang out with God's people and to be plugged into the life of a local church.


How about you? Are you plugged into a local church? Are you only showing up and getting out of it what you can, or are you pouring yourself into that body of believers? If you are a part of Calvary, I encourage you to lean in. God has used the Calvary family to impact my life. I know He can use the followers of Christ who are Calvary to change your life too!


I am thankful for the local churches God blessed me with over the years! What would your church history look like if you wrote it out? Take the time to thank God for the churches He has used in your life. Thank Him for your current local church. Don't have one? Find a body of believers in your area where you can worship, grow with others, and serve.


Thank God for the gift of the local church! Stay plugged in so you can thrive in Christ as you walk with His family!

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