My husband and I just lately skilled a season of being on the street full-time due to his job. For 28 months, we didn’t have our own residence or automobile, and we have been continuously shifting. We lived in 14 completely different cities throughout 11 states, drove 18 rental automobiles, made dozens of recent pals, tried a plethora of recent espresso & tea outlets, and have been an energetic a part of 12 completely different church buildings.
There was so much I discovered throughout our travels, however one factor that stands out is how the expertise modified my perspective of “going to church.” As somebody who was a church common since earlier than I might stroll, going to church has by no means been new to me. However not having a constant church residence for over two years made me take into consideration the aim of church in an entire new manner.
Early in our journey, my husband and I made a decision to discover a church we might attend at each new place we lived. It wasn’t precisely a straightforward factor to do and was typically discouraging, however I’m so glad we made the hassle. In consequence, we met some great individuals, made pals we nonetheless sustain with at the moment, and discovered what having a church residence actually means to us. We discovered learn how to leap in and make a church ours, what mattered to us in selecting a church, and a lot extra.
Listed below are 4 issues I discovered from our expertise attending 12 completely different church buildings in solely a few years.
1. Your church house is a constant neighborhood.
This can be one factor you don’t totally grasp the worth of till you‘ve misplaced it. Whereas we have been shifting so usually (each few weeks to each few months), I spotted how scary it’s to go someplace the place nobody is aware of you. Who are you able to name when there’s an emergency? Who’s going to face by your loved ones when one thing unhealthy occurs? You’re all of a sudden dealing with all of the ups and downs of life with out a close by help community.
However whenever you discover the correct of church residence, you discover a new sort of household. You discover individuals who’ll rally round you when issues are exhausting and who’ll rejoice with you when issues are good. You discover a place the place you belong, the place individuals know your title and your job and your pursuits. And also you’re in a position to start making true pals.
Whereas touring, I rapidly discovered why God didn’t create us to be life-long nomads, all the time on our personal. God designed us as relational individuals who want others. Since my husband and I have been continuously strangers to everybody round us, it didn’t take me lengthy to comprehend how particular it’s to “not [be] strangers and aliens, however [to be] fellow residents with the saints and members of the family of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
I nonetheless vividly bear in mind a handful of interactions with individuals who welcomed us wholeheartedly into their church neighborhood. They circled round us as Jesus meant the church to do, not simply with their phrases however with their actions.
I bear in mind the ladies’s small group I obtained to attend solely a handful of instances in Pooler, Georgia. After my final assembly with them, these girls circled collectively and prayed the kindest phrases over me.
I bear in mind two considerate church households who invited us to spend Thanksgiving with them when ours weren’t close by.
I bear in mind how an older gentleman on the church we attended in Fort Wayne, Indiana, would come discover us after each service. He all the time remembered our names and would ask how we have been doing and what we’d achieved that week. He by no means allow us to really feel unnoticed or neglected.
I bear in mind the woman who took me out to lunch sooner or later after we visited her church in Maryland. She made it her private mission to attach with us and embody us within the church’s actions.
These individuals gave us a area people once we had none, which is precisely what God meant the church to be.
2. There’s a couple of approach to “do church.”
Should you, like me, grew up going to at least one sort of church your entire life, you’re possible very used to the way in which your church did issues. The music seems like this, everybody wears these garments, sermons are this lengthy, and communion occurs this manner. You could have assumed that these are the “proper“ methods to do issues. Chances are you’ll even have been taught that.
However this isn’t the case. People will not be all the identical. The world’s cultures will not be all the identical. We aren’t all in the identical place in our stroll with God. So why would our church providers all be the identical?
Over time, I’ve seen all types of church buildings — ones the place they preached in two completely different languages in the identical service, ones the place they met in a college’s gymnasium, ones the place the worship service featured lights and drums and particular results, and ones the place the organ and orchestra dominated.
Seeing all of the other ways church providers are achieved throughout this nation alone was eye-opening. I noticed firsthand that God is current in any church service the place believers are gathered with the only goal of worshipping Him. In spite of everything, He promised in Matthew 18:20, “For the place two or three are gathered in my title, there am I amongst them.” I watched this occur in all completely different sorts of church cultures. If His individuals’s hearts and minds are turned towards Him, God will meet us in any church — no matter what sort of constructing we’re assembly in, what we’re carrying, or what number of or how few individuals are there.
3. Church connects you with believers wherever you go.
I all the time discovered it unbelievable how my husband and I might stroll right into a brand-new church the place we didn’t know a single soul and but nonetheless really feel so related to everybody round us. We have been all singing to the identical God, praying to the identical God, and listening to from the identical God all service lengthy. I didn’t know something about these individuals, however we already had one thing in widespread — our religion.
That commonality allowed my husband and I to immediately join with different believers wherever we went. It made it simpler to develop friendships, as a result of not solely did we see one another each week, however we knew we shared the identical religion and values. Whereas it’s definitely necessary to attach with people who find themselves completely different from us, together with non-Christians, our hearts additionally want connections with individuals who share the religion that’s so necessary to us.
By means of Christ’s sacrifice, we “although many, are one physique in Christ” (Romans 12:5), no matter how completely different we’re or how little we all know one another. This fact made it a lot simpler to attach with individuals by church every time we moved. And now we’ve got new pals all throughout the nation with whom we are able to reconnect any time we’re of their space.
4. Church enables you to be a part of one thing bigger than your self.
As people, there’s one thing in us that wishes to be a part of one thing larger — that wishes to be a part of a motion that issues. The worldwide church neighborhood offers us that likelihood because the tens of millions of Christians on the earth work collectively to carry extra of God’s grace and goodness to this earth. We get to play an energetic function in what Jesus is doing on the earth at this very second.
Whereas that is one thing we are able to do individually and never simply on Sundays, a church residence does present an quick access level for serving since it’s already related with wants locally in addition to wants inside its personal constructing. And when the church meets, we’ve got the possibility to point out God-sized hospitality — to welcome newcomers, maintain the hand of the hurting, embrace the misplaced, and encourage the believers.
I used to be all the time so grateful once we discovered a brand new church residence that allowed us to get entangled in how they have been serving their bigger neighborhood. However the way in which we contributed regarded completely different every time.
One church wanted assist assembling toy kitchens for the kids’s rooms, one other church wanted assist getting all of the decorations prepared for his or her summer season kids’s program, and yet one more church wanted assist with childcare for a weekly mothers’ group. No matter what sort of work I used to be doing, it modified my entire expertise with that church. I felt a way of possession, like I used to be actually part of it. I obtained to attach with different individuals who cared about the identical causes that I do, and I gained a larger understanding of what went on behind the scenes to maintain the church’s actions going.
Not all of a church’s ministries are within the limelight, and among the jobs they need assistance with could appear insignificant. However they make a distinction. The actual fact that you just’re volunteering to assist makes a distinction. We’d like all of us and every of our distinctive skills to be the sort of numerous, well-rounded and totally geared up church physique that God needs us to be. It is just once we are all doing our personal half that the “physique [can] develop in order that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16).
Don’t hand over assembly collectively
Church isn’t about us and our preferences. It’s not about which church has the precise sort of music we like, or all of the ministries we’re used to, or is simply the precise dimension for our consolation zone. As an alternative, it’s the place we are able to hear from God by biblical educating, worship with different believers, participate in necessary sacraments akin to communion and baptism, and contribute our expertise and abilities to bless others. Finally, it’s about God engaging in His functions on earth, for our good and for His glory.
If I have been to wrap all these concepts into one huge idea, I’d say that I lastly totally perceive how the church isn’t just a constructing or a gathering, however a gaggle of believers. It’s concerning the individuals, all of us completely different in a thousand methods but sharing two issues in widespread — our sin natures and the forgiveness of Jesus who’s paid the value for them. He’s the One who brings us all collectively, who transforms us from many alternative strangers into one international neighborhood.
On the finish of all my travels, I can inform you this a lot for positive: It’s a superbly inspiring factor whenever you expertise God’s church being the neighborhood that God meant it to be — a neighborhood of imperfect individuals constantly turning into extra like Jesus and pouring real love onto others, whether or not inside or exterior the church. As Ephesians 1:22 places it, we are supposed to be the “fullness of God” on this world. That’s a tall order. It takes all of us working collectively, being the fingers and toes of Jesus on earth.
Copyright 2021 Jessica Swanda. All rights reserved.