If taking notes from this blog, write this one down. This is a brave dating practice.
You may think that loving Jesus is enough. It’s not. Somehow this weird “Jesus and me” mentality has infected Christianity. For too many church has become listening to podcasts, watching popular preachers, hiking, skiing, or otherwise spend time in nature and calling it church. I personally do all of those things and that is not church. Yes, I do grow in my knowledge. I do have moments when I feel God’s presence. But this is not church. This is my growing faith.
The Bible calls us to be part of a local church. A physical church with real people. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-15. The New Testament church kept lists of its people. It cared for its people. It observed sacraments, shared things in common, and provided encouragement and correction. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity–all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47.
I know. The local church is not like this. The local church is so flawed. It is. It is full of flawed people. Most people who are truly giving it their best. Yet it doesn’t turn out clean. Churches are full of messy flawed people. You can be offended by these people who are trying but then you should be offended by you who is also not perfect. When you are hiking in your beautiful solo worshipful moments, you are still with a flawed person. It’s just that this person (you) doesn’t seem so flawed when you are not worshipping with others.
Churches make us vulnerable. People are going to hurt us. People are going to be stupid. We are going to feel pain, rejection, disappointment. We are also going to feel joy, community, belonging. Brave it up. Your identity in Christ should be strong enough to endure the uncomfortableness of vulnerability. Your identity seeps out when your decisions of bravery define you. When you choose vulnerability over numbing. The blessing is you get to also feel joy. Church does bring great moments of joy. It really does.
Commit yourself to a local church. And this doesn’t mean sitting in the back of a megachurch to take in the show. Find a church that knows your name. That will greet you by name at the door. If not at the door, that someone in the lobby will yell across, “Good morning, Brenda!”
Being a part of a local church becomes a brave dating practice because this is where you will most likely find your team. These are people you can be accountable to because they want the best for you. And you need a team to brave date.
The local church is where you can find a place in ministry to serve. Every single needs to be serving somewhere. You are capable. You are gifted. You are needed. And you have the time. I know you probably hate that you have the time but this is a great season in your life. Not a waiting season til that “one day” but one when you get to live your life to the fullest now. When the adventure of following God is a part of your life now (as well as “one day”). The local church has plenty of opportunities you can dip your toes in or jump in with both feet because you know you have a passion for children or you know you are a developer of leaders or you know you can lead a mission trip. The local church provides the place to develop you.
Note: If your church family idolizes marriage which means you are not a full member of this church because you are single (whether stated or perceived), find a better church. Curse the dumb church who doesn’t realize the treasure that a single person is to the work of the church. I mean that. You are a full person full of passion that can be used in ministry in a thousand different ways. You need to be recognized and released to be this full person by your church family.
When your church family honors you like this and gives you opportunity, you become quite attractive. (The church family also gains a lot too because they have you serving.) You are given the opportunity to be all that God has made you to be. And that is attractive. Join a local church and become attractive.
The local church is also one of the few places in this crazy America where people from all walks of life gather together. Think about the circles of your life. Inside those circles are a lot of the same people. In a church you get everybody. People you wouldn’t have a conversation with. People you wouldn’t know so you would never grow compassion for. This is one of the biggest blessings of being a part of a church family. It is also the reason why it is easier to worship alone. Jump in. You are a bit weird too.
Just a warning: Don’t find a local church in the hopes that this is where you are going to find your love for a lifetime. You may. Most likely you may not. But these are the people who are going to help you know when you have found that right match which will lead to a love for a lifetime. These are the ones who will pray for you through it all. These are the people who are going to rejoice (most likely with loud noises) when you find your love for a lifetime. And these are the people who are going to sit with you and let you cry when your heart is broken. Remember that pain is the beginning.
You want these people in your life. You need these people in your life. This is why you go to church. You may also love to worship and may also love to be stretched by some good preaching (book me, I’ll stretch you!), but in the end it is the people. It is your church family. You need them.
(Photo credit: http://factsandtrends.net/2015/10/21/11-places-to-use-greeters-at-your-church/#.VuxhMfkrIdU)