We show up on a Sunday morning for what we get, and if we think we can get something better someplace else we’ll just go there.
Sound familiar? It’s a consumer-based method, like almost everything else in American culture.
Unfortunately, it’s not healthy for our spiritual development, nor is it God honoring. Throughout Scripture, the marriage is associated with the church. If we think of our relationship to a church like a marriage, it’s something that should be taken seriously. Now, obviously the connection can only go so far as a church doesn’t move with you like a spouse does, and there are things a church can do that are unhealthy or theological errors they can make that definitely merit departure.
However, our current culture is not churches filled with people who are overly devoted and loyal. We are in a season of the church where people are so disconnected it’s difficult for the church to effectively carry out its mission. While thinking of the church as a marriage relationship is far from a perfect analogy it does emphasize the importance of being committed to a local body of believers despite their imperfections. It emphasizes the need to invest, work through conflict and be less selfish. Christians who grow most effectively are Christians who really turn their church into their home.
We all have times when we are searching for a church home. Our desire is that you find a place where you can connect, grow and engage with the Gospel. The Bible teaches the Church is for everyone. People say: “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” Just like a fish doesn’t have to be in water to be a fish. What happens to the fish when it’s out of the water for very long? The same thing that happens to the Christian. The idea that you can be a Christian and not go to church is also wildly unbiblical. The Bible doesn’t just expect Christians to be devoted to the community of believers, the Bible assumes it.
Every local church has its own unique style and personality. It’s important to find the right fit. A place where you can serve, use your unique gifts and grow. The fact is not every church is for everyone. Some grow better in a big church with high production and lots of programs. Others grow better in a smaller church with a greater emphasis on intimate personal relationships. Regardless of where it is, we all need to connect to godly community.
And in order for a church to feel like a home there are two things we need:
For any church over 100 people getting connected can be a challenge. If all you do is show up on Sunday morning it will take a long time to really feel like you are a part of the church or to have any real bond to it. The best way to connect, to make a church feel like home, is by engaging in godly community through groups.
There is no way to emphasize the importance of this enough. We are shaped by community. The people we connect with have a huge impact on the person we become. So, if our community is not a godly one, the people who are shaping our lives, aren’t making us more like Jesus. It is absolutely essential for the Christian to be engaged in godly community.
One of the best things you can do for your relationship with God and spiritual growth is to take the time to connect with the community on a regular basis outside of Sunday morning. Think about this: If the Church is a family, how close do you get to your family if you see them for an hour once a week? How many of us would be content seeing our wife that much?
It’s easy to show up and to leave. Spectating Church will rarely lead to it having a real impact on our lives. Investing in the Church through serving will not only increase connection but it will provide a place to apply what God is teaching us.
Growing up my parents made me do chores. We also got an allowance. The mantra in our household was: “You do chores because you are a part of the family. You get an allowance to learn how to manage money.”
What my parents were trying to teach me is that being a part of a family has expectations. It’s not just a party we show up for. There are no cleaning fairies to pick up after us. Being a part of a family means we all have a role to play. Guests show up and guests leave. Family members connect and invest in the family. Most the people we encounter who come to church are looking for a place to belong. Most the people we see leaving a church are people who didn’t feel connected. Connection is not magical. It’s not just going to happen.
Like any relationship, engaging with a church takes effort on both sides. Finding a place to serve within the Church is not only a Biblical expectation, it’s a great way to really get plugged in.
Like people, no church is perfect. Like any good relationship you don’t run away because it’s hard or messy. The best relationships are ones that have endured storms, overcome frustrations, and stayed true even when doing so wasn’t easy. The Church is no different. The more we invest in it, the more we get out of it.
When you connect to a church through groups and invest in service you become engaged. Nothing will make you feel more at home in a church than engaging it. Engagement will give you a sense of ownership, of value and of community. Engagement will turn the Church from a room full of people to your spiritual family. Engagement will make the Church feel like home. So if, like many, what you are searching for is a place to belong, a community where you can grow, be accepted and be loved the best thing you can do is connect to groups and invest in service.
Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is the author of Zombie Church: breathing life back into the body of Christ. You can find more of his work on Facebook or you can follow him on Twitter @tedwardsccc.