I’ve been a member of my church here in Nebraska for 10 years. But I wasn’t always a “member,” if you know what I mean. For a long time I simply showed up out of obligation.
When our kids were very young, Brad and I decided that it would be a good idea to find a church and enroll them in Sunday school. So we went church shopping, which entailed visiting three or four churches in town. We picked Southwood for two reasons: It was close to our house, and it was big, so big that we could blend in easily without being noticed or, worse, targeted to “get involved.”
I sat in the last row of the sanctuary with my head up against the back window a couple of Sundays a month for three years, yes years, before I began to turn back toward God and church.
I used to think I chose Southwood. Now I know that God chose Southwood for me.
He knew Southwood would offer both a quiet, unobtrusive environment to grow my faith, and a community that would gently nudge me when I was ready to take the next step.
You see, I’m not a risk-taker, and God knows that. He knows I love the same-old, same-old; that I’m comfortable in my routines; that I don’t like to step out of my comfort zone. He knew I’d show up at 8:30 every Sunday morning, attend a service for 45 minutes, and then exit out the front doors without a backward glance. He knew I would never step into a soup kitchen or volunteer to help underprivileged kids learn to read, or rake an elderly widow’s front yard on my own.
He knew I’d concoct a half-dozen excuses for why I didn’t have the time or why those experiences didn’t fit neatly into my life or why someone else was better suited to do those kinds of things.
He even knew what my answer would be when Pastor Sara suggested I join a small group.
“Yeah, sounds great; I’ll definitely think about that,” I told her politely, with absolutely no intention of ever joining a small group.
Talk about God on a Friday night with a bunch of strangers? Sign me up for a root canal instead, thank you very much.
Of course, within a day of that conversation with Pastor Sara, I had an invitation to join a small group in my in-box from Kim, a stranger who would become a close friend and spiritual comrade.
And those strangers who made my palms sweat? We’ve been meeting for four years now. We’ve walked through grief, joy, questions, doubts, celebrations and defeats together. We’ve served food, scrubbed floors, pulled weeds, distributed bread and picked up trash together.
They’re not strangers anymore.
I used to think that church wasn’t a necessary part of the faith. Now I know that for me, at least, it’s essential. I know that even with the best intentions, I wouldn’t serve on my own like I do when I am part of my church community. Frankly, it’s harder to say “no” when I see the email from Nicole announcing our small group’s serving project. Left to my own devices, tomorrow is always a better, more convenient day to sign up.
This morning we read from Acts 2, in which the disciples and Jesus’ early followers gathered to share meals, fellowship and prayer:
“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.” (Acts 2:42-43)
All those years I showed up at church and sat in the back pew, I had no idea that a life-changing transformation was taking place. Now I know. The Holy Spirit was at work, reforming my heart, breathing life into my spirit and using dozens of people around me to make it happen.
Today, I look back with a deep sense of awe at the power of God and the miracles his church has brought to my life.
What about you? How has being a member of a church impacted your life and your faith? Do you think church is a necessary part of faith?
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I love hearing what you have to reveal each week about how God is speaking to you through his word. And be assured, although I may not leave a comment, I do read each and every one of your posts and am so very grateful for your participation here!