“This shouldn’t be that difficult,” I blubbered to my husband. We were newly married and DESPERATE to find a church home. We had visited several different churches in our area, trying to fit in anywhere and it was awful. Really awful. No one would talk to us. We attended different classes and we got the cold shoulder. We sat in worship service and sometimes no one would even sit by us. NO ONE.
It’s bad enough to sit by someone who won’t talk to you, but to sit alone in a pew is even worse. Sitting alone in a pew is like being naked in church, because you feel like you are putting yourself out there, only to be left in the cold. (Disclaimer: It isn’t ALL about going where everybody knows your name. But when at least one person introduces themselves to you, it lets you know that someone noticed you!)
We wanted to find a church that had a great community and a strong mission, where we could serve and be around people who were passionate about God and about helping their community thrive. I’m a big definition nerd, so I want to share a couple of definitions of community from Google. The short definition of community is “a group of people who live in the same place”….cool. People live near each other and that’s all it takes. BUT–real community is so much deeper than just being in close proximity to each other. Here is my favorite definition of community: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the second definition is way better than the first one. It goes way beyond just being around one another.
So, why is community important? I thought of a few reasons:
Community Helps the Church Grow
When I say “grow,” I don’t just mean in numbers (although that could stem from this idea). I mean spiritually. With closer relationships come more opportunities to help each other grow! One of my favorite verses in the bible is from Proverbs 27:17. It talks about how we affect change in each other. It says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Just like this verse says, it is important to help each other become better people. Strive to sharpen others.
Community Gets Work Done
The power of people working together is amazing. When a community comes together to support something like a food pantry or a Vacation Bible School, big things can happen in God’s name. If one person is trying to do something alone, they may be able to get a lot done, but may not reach as many people or have nearly as much effect. When we work with others it is truly great for the Kingdom.
Community is Involved in the Community
Not only is community involved in helping others grow spiritually and getting work done, BUT it is also important to be involved outside of the church. I know. Who has time for that? We have to pick either church or what’s on the outside, because we’re so busy. It doesn’t have to be a chore or take a lot of time out of your schedule. It can be as simple as picking up some cookies at the store for a function or volunteering at the library to read to some kiddos.
When you work as a community to reach others, people will feel more welcome and inclined to see what you are about. When we love people together, our love becomes infectious.
I want to challenge you to look for opportunities in your church to help build your community and get to know it better.
And when the time comes, look for ways to add people to your community and show them that love. Don’t let someone sit alone in a pew.
I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.
I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
Now, some of you may be saying I’m blaspheming and others may be excitedly cheering. However, before you come to any quick conclusions, listen to my story. Then tell me if you believe we heard God correctly or not.
A No-Brainer Decision
After getting married and settling back into our hometown, my husband and I automatically started attending the congregation we grew up attending. Why wouldn’t we? It seemed perfectly natural and logical. This congregation had a lot of things going for it:
It was the closest location to our residence.
We grew up in that congregation.
My mom and dad attended that congregation.
Since we grew up there, they were our spiritual family.
Before placing membership, we never stopped to pray and ask with which congregation we should be involved. Again, why would we? All the other pieces fit.
Fast forward eight years or so into our marriage: Our prayer life had totally changed. Changed so much so that instead of asking God to bless our ideas or to shut a door, we were asking Him to be our guide and show us what to do in all areas of life. He was turning everything upside-down or right-side up, depending on how we looked at it.
Stop Going to Church? What?
It was not even on our radar when God told us to leave our church family. What? Surely, we didn’t hear You correctly. This is our family–physically and spiritually. It doesn’t make any sense. This is where we’ve grown up. We’ve planted ourselves and our little children here. We are active here. Why? How does this make sense?
Honestly, my first reaction was not one of instant submission and acceptance. Instead, I argued with God and tried to convince myself and my husband that we must have heard God wrong. He would never want us to leave our church home, right? Isn’t that why He created the church, so we would each be part of His church family? Why would He now ask us to leave the church family He put us in? My interaction with God sounded a bit like this:
God, You’re surely making a mistake. This is one of those “test the spirit” moments that 1 John 4:1-3 talks about and since it doesn’t match up to my plan, I’m sure we are misunderstanding what You are saying.
But my tried and true, faithful husband gave me that “You’re being stubborn and digging your cute little heels in where they shouldn’t be dug” look. Did I also mention I’d been working on submission for many years? God was definitely using this as a time to mold and shape my heart to fit His will and not mine.
Heeding the Call to Obey
So after a year or more, I was convicted of something that I never realized played a part in our choice to stay at our home congregation. I realized I was putting my physical and spiritual family ahead of God.Matthew 10:37-38 kept ringing through my heart:
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
How could I not be convicted? I was putting my own comfort of being with “my family” over God! Wow!! That hit me like a ton of bricks. Finally, I was ready to accept that God did intend for us to leave this particular church family. For some reason, He wanted us somewhere else.
Where Should We Go to Church?
I’ve learned that when God asks you to trust Him, He doesn’t lay out His entire plan and then wait for your approval. No!
Instead, He says, “Follow Me. Trust Me. I’ll get you to where you need to go.” So without a game plan or a direction to follow, during the summer of 2012 we began visiting different congregations every other week. We went all over the city and to small towns up to forty minutes away. Where He would plant us, we didn’t know, but we knew we wanted to obey.
We landed in a place that neither of us had ever heard of before, a congregation born out of adversity and challenge. When the church began, they started out meeting at a park, where every Sunday they would pray for God’s guidance and praise Him for how He was working in their lives. Years later, when we came to them, they were located about twenty-five minutes from our house in a different city than where we lived. The first time we walked in. we knew that this might be the place for us. Through prayer over the next month, we realized this was the congregation where God wanted us to be involved.
Why did God tell us to find a new church?
We still didn’t know. We were still trying to obey while He revealed that plan. In the meantime, we got to know people and became involved in the congregation’s work.
The Blessings of Obedience
We have been there a little over 3.5 years. As we look back over our time there and the friendships and family we have made, we can see why he put us there…or at least partially why so far:
We became adoptive parents of an awesome college student. This twenty-one-year-old student’s father tragically passed away from cancer last year. My husband also lost his father to cancer when he was twenty-one. We feel God put us at this congregation to be a support for this college student. Especially since my husband has been through such a similar situation, he can relate and encourage him more.
Some amazing friendships have blossomed, stemming from our involvement with this congregation. Friendships that have even affected this blog. Before attending this congregation, I didn’t know Britnie, McKenzie, or Julie, but here we are sharing our lives together publicly because God sent our family to that congregation.
Our children have had the opportunity to reach out and serve families in a poorer part of Oklahoma City through Cross & Crown Mission. Our family has been fortunate to meet many who are Christ’s hands and feet down there. We were even encouraged to bring our kids to serve with us instead of discouraged because of their young ages.
We have been blessed to be part of a congregation that rejoices in praising our Lord, is led by the Holy Spirit, and serves without hesitation.
My husband and I believe that God can restore any marriage if a couple is willing to let Him work. I think our willingness to stick our necks out, to get to know people and be intentionally prayerful and encouraging in their marriages, even when they are falling apart, is part of the why too.
I’m sure there are some that I’m missing or things I just don’t see yet, but one thing I know for sure. Without obedience we would have missed so many blessings.
A verse from one of my favorite hymns resonates one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned during this experience…
Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
Have you been trusting God in your life or have you been dismissing His calling?
Don’t miss the blessings that obedience brings. No matter how uncomfortable it might make you, the rewards are so much greater!
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