Church is not a new concept to me; I've grown up having to #BeIntentional about it. That's what you do in a pastor's family...someone has to be there to turn on the lights, open the doors, clean the bathrooms, and teach Sunday school. We didn't just go on Sundays, either. During the week I did my homework, practiced piano, and played hide and seek with my sisters in the sanctuary while my parents prepared for the next gathering.
Church was literally my home away from home.
My husband's experience was different. His family attended church regularly, but the 45-minute, one-way drive made it a little more difficult to be there every time the doors were open. When we got married, it took us awhile to figure out what our commitment to church would look like. I routinely felt like I wasn't doing enough, while he was happy to be more committed than he'd ever been. We had begun to settle somewhere in the middle when everything changed.
When we walked through the most difficult months of our lives, we began to understand more deeply the impact a local church can have on a family. At a time when it would be harder than ever to commit to attending church, we determined to #BeIntentional about it.
Many times, we showed up emotionally drained and physically exhausted from the toll cancer takes on a family. We were weary, but we went, not out of a legalistic obligation to a building. We went because, quite simply, we needed it.
We needed the worship—not just the lively music, but the atmosphere alive with adoration of a Savior and expectation of what He would do.
We needed the Word. We read the Bible daily, but on those darkest days when our faith faltered, we needed to be reminded that God is for us and fighting on our behalf.
We needed the community. Our large church grew even smaller and more intimate as people stopped to tell us they were praying for us, or offered to bring us a meal, or sent an encouraging note or e-mail. We needed every single one of them who came alongside and stood with us in faith.
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:24, 25)
We needed connection. Everyone needs a support group, but as Christians we need more than a network of well-meaning individuals. We need to be connected to a body of believers.
For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them. (Matthew 18:20).
Week after week we found those things and more; we found the hope to make it through the coming days.
We continue to #BeIntentional about gathering together with other believers, even as we settle into our "new normal," because we realize that church is not just for the hard times. Yes, it's in the hard times that we need community, but if we only seek community when we need it, we will end up with a group of highly needy individuals who do nothing but take from others.
That's not God's plan:
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. (1 Corinthians 12:25-27, The Message).
I realize that not everyone has fond memories of church. I'm sure someone reading this has suffered a terrible wrong in the name of church or Christianity. Please understand this: That God's heart breaks over your pain. If you will allow Him, He will heal your pain and show you how beautiful His plan can be.
We are so grateful for the ways God used others in our journey. Now we look forward to God using us to help others as we continue to #BeIntentional about church and community in 2015.
Christianity is a personal relationship. It is not a private relationship. ~Larry Osborne
Is there a group of believers with whom you already do life? How can you #BeIntentional in connecting with them? Or, do you need to #BeIntentional about finding a group and connecting? What is holding you back? Share your thoughts in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.
More Great Reads to Help you #BeIntentional in Community: (Follow the #BeIntentional Pinterest board for these and other resources.)
What Starbucks Taught Me About Church
When You Need Community
3 Reasons to Attend Corporate Worship
10 Signs You Belong to a Great Church
Behind the Stained Glass
Five Benefits of Faithful Preaching
When Grace is In the Pulpit
Finding Hope in Community
When Worship is Our Lifeline
Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.