The JOY of Belonging

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I belong to the Church, my life formed, shaped, and supported by the people with whom I ‘do life.’  Living without belonging to this group that is bigger than my agenda, more important than my needs, and that will exist long after I’m gone is beyond my imagination. That kind of connection is increasingly rare.

We pastors can get worked up about those who are ‘casual’ in attendance at church, wondering why, putting ourselves under all kinds of pressure to create a more ‘entertaining’ Sunday experience, even resorting to guilt to increase the numbers. And, all the while, we can be focusing on mostly wrong things. Karl Vaters, in his blog, says this – “Most people who don’t attend church are not making a conscious choice against it. Choosing requires awareness. And that awareness exists for fewer and fewer people every day. … they haven’t rejected the idea of going to church. It simply isn’t on their list of options. They’re not lazy, they’re apathetic.”

The joy of belonging is an unknown to many who think of ‘going to church’ as a boring hour built around rituals that are hard to understand, talking about a book that seems disconnected from our time, among people that are ‘different.’  And, if our Christianity is not more than a ‘church’ experience, most of us will soon conclude, ‘’why bother?”

A Christian who is engaged with following Jesus, who is serving others, who is pursuing the King and His kingdom, will quickly conclude, “I cannot do this by myself.”  The church that understands what it means to be ‘the Body of Christ,’ will be a community where struggle is welcomed, where prayer is real, where imperfect people come together to miraculously become better together than they could possibly be alone!  Hungering for God will give meaning to celebrating Christ’s gift of Himself and God’s love in the songs and the ritual of Communion.  The preaching of the Word will become an opportunity to sort out the truth. For disciples those ‘different’ people will become brothers and sisters in the family of God.

Something has gone wrong with a kind of Christianity that thinks that a nicely ordered, and often rather impersonal, worship service is ‘it!’  Yes, the corporate worship experience is a valuable time to learn the Word, to sing and pray together. And we need a place to ‘be’ to know that we are part of something bigger and better because of the Spirit that lives in us. The question I am asking myself is not ‘how do I get more people to attend church?’ but rather ‘what must we do to help more people to understand what it means to belong to the church?’

All Believers need other Believers in their lives who understand and accept them, who can poke holes in their pretensions, and pray for them with true empathy. We need to be able to laugh and retreat from the work that piles up around us, not just in solitary pursuits, but in the company of Christ’s family. There is something godly and worshipful about sharing life at that level and then taking our cares to the One who sits on Heaven’s Throne! I am convinced that in addition to all the programs of church; genuine Christianity involves time for sharing a bowl of soup and a cup of laughter. May God draw us together in the love of Jesus.

So here is a word from the Word – “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT)

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If a response stirred in you – positive or negative, affirming or critical – I’d love to hear from you about this.

Write to me at Pastor@FaithDiscovery.com

 

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