I grew up in an amazing church. I loved attending our kids church program, being apart of the youth group and volunteering on the drama team. I was mentored by some AMAZING women, both as small group and team leaders and was given the opportunity to grow in my gifts. When I walked into my church I felt accepted, loved, understood, and like I belonged. This was my experience from as far back as I can remember.
After getting married Alex and I moved to Australia to volunteer in a small church, me as a speaker/preacher and him as a worship leader. Our time in Australia was hard, to say the least. We were not apart of a healthy body and found ourselves in some of the most difficult relationships we’d ever encountered. We left that experience wounded and wondering what had gone wrong.
Coming back to Canada after that 6 months away was one of the most difficult times in my life and our marriage. The hurt was deep and I found myself less than eager to dive back into church life. I knew it wasn’t “the church” that had injured me, but it still felt scary to get involved in community again. Alex and I had also decided to find a new home church, one where we could start fresh as a married couple – which felt like a daunting task.
We found a new place to call home within a few months and have been attending there every since. Right away we knew it was where the Lord wanted us and three and half years later, still feel that. But it hasn’t been an easy journey.
Personally I’ve really struggled to get involved, build relationships and serve in our church. I’ve often been guarded, distant and unengaged. As you can imagine, when this is how one approaches building new relationships, those relationships don’t flourish overnight. Almost four years later I still have moments where I feel like a stranger in my own church.
And I know it’s nothing anyone else has said or done. It’s me.
Today our pastor talked about the church as the body of Christ. I’ve heard similar sermons many times – but was struck by his words in a new way.
He spoke of how an amputated limb is useless – a foot, cut off from the leg – can do no good.
And through His words, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said this:
“Heather, don’t cut yourself off from the body. You will experience more fullness of life than you ever imagined IN CONNECTION with the rest of the body.”
So many of us believers are lone rangers. We think about our faith journey as a personal relationship with Jesus and forget that we are all one body.
We all have something to offer the group that no one else can.
We are useless on our own.
And we actually hurt and hinder the rest of the body when we cut ourselves off.
These aren’t pleasant thoughts to dwell on.
But the more I think and pray through theses things, the more I realize that God brings the abundant life to us personally, through community. Yes we can experience fullness of life in those moments just between us and the Lord, but as we share them with others in community, those moments are only MAGNIFIED. Our joy is only increased. Our understanding of God’s love, only made more complete.
“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” – 1 Corinthians 12:18
Today I’m encouraged to press into community more than I have before. To stop being guarded and to reach out to those whom God has surrounded me with. I know it won’t be easy, but I also know it’s what He wants.
How about you? What has your experience with the church been like? Do you feel connected or are you in some way cut off?
This Thursday, March 7th (8pm CST) I will be teaching an online class open to ANYONE on the Basics of Public Speaking. It’s $10 to attend and will be available as a recording if you can’t participate in real time. Check it out here: The Influence Network Classes0