A sense of belonging is lost, in a place it is needed the most...
Check out this funny video by comedian Tim Hawkins, regarding Church!
I was raised in the church environment my whole life. I am glad to say, I have never ran into any greeters like the one in the video above! Growing up, I remember attending church up to three times a week; Sunday morning, Sunday night, and mid-week service. A little overkill if you ask me! I was raised in the Assembly of God denomination. Pretty charismatic for the most part. Like any other church, it had some issues. I don't think there is a such thing as "the perfect church", as each person comes with their own preferences, and quite often not all are met. But for the most part, it did set a habit within my life style, one that now carries on with my own family. I often wonder where or who I would be today, had my parent's not laid that foundation for me when I was young. For that, I am truly grateful!
Over my 34 years we attended other churches; Non-denominational, Church of Christ, Baptist, Nazarene, both big and small. Besides some doctrinal difference, they were overall the same to me. They each offered a Bible-based sermon, worship, Children's Ministry programs, adult bible study groups (known as Small Groups or Life Groups), and killer potlucks!. There was one thing that seemed to stand out above the rest though. It was a sense of "belonging" to the body of the church. If that feeling was not present over time, all the other things the church offered became irrelevant. We watched as church after church showed eagerness to have new visitors, and nurtured them for awhile. But slowly over time, when people became just another face, that interaction stopped. This is where I think Churches fail to grow. Instead of just a few members linking arms in their little circle of friends, I feel the Church as a whole should be linking arms. Every church has its cliches, making it hard for new-comers to fit in at times. But if the goal of the church is to reach the lost, why are we so afraid to embrace the ones who voluntarily walk through the church doors?
For some out there, you don't go to church at all and fail to see the reason why you should. For others, it is something you do when convenient. Let me ask you, why? Why haven't you gotten plugged into your local church? Is it laziness, fear, stereotypes,bad experience? Take it from someone who has seen it all, the church is the only place you can be yourself and still be accepted. Sure, you may need to weed out a few churches before you find the one that you feel most a home at. I call it "church shopping"! But let me tell you, once you do find it, and truly get involved, be prepared to be changed from the inside out.
For those who do attend regularly, are you involved or just a seat warmer? I can't stress how important it is to seek out new relationships within the church. It takes being proactive and determined. It is not enough to just sit back, listen to the sermon, and then head home, living the rest of the week out as if you were taught nothing. Instead take those sermons and soak them up like a sponge, using what you learn to then reach out to others and make a difference. Next week marks the start of a new year. I can't think of a better way to start fresh, then with a spiritual makeover!
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NIV)