Walking into Church Alone

I started talking about this in my last post, but thought I would expand on it today. It is a scary thing to walk into a church alone. In a lot of churches, it seems like people have more respect and are more welcoming to a new couple or a new family than to someone who is alone. When I was in my teens and twenties, I walked into a lot of churches alone. I will never forget that “gulp down in the bottom of my throat” fear stepping through those doors and wondering if people would judge me on superficial factors and not get to know the person I was inside. My experiences have been positive, more than not, though I could tell you about some negative experiences that made me wonder whether theses churches truly wanted people to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Yesterday, I named some categories of people who might walk into a church alone. They included people who have never been married, whether old or young, people who have been divorced, and people who have been widowed. I want to add one other category to that list. It would be a person who is married, but whose spouse is not interested in coming to church for whatever reason. I think that one would be the hardest one of all because what do you tell the people you meet. You’re different from them, but you’re not different either so it’s hard to know where to fit in.

So, what does the church do about that, if anything? I think the first step is to recognize when people walk into our churches alone and make sure they are introduced to people who will sit with them during the service. That would go a long way towards increasing people’s comfort level with being in a new place. And then, then, if they are interested in knowing more about the church, give them opportunities to find out what the church is all about–opportunities to learn, opportunities to serve, opportunities to become a part of the church family despite the fact they are alone. People who walk into our churches alone are just as capable of serving God as those who are married or those who have families. It’s about time our churches realized that.

God’s blessings on you today!

 

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The Most Important Relationship

Today’s post is going to be a two-parter with the other part coming tomorrow. In Christian media today, there is a lot of support for marriage and for the family. Think about the last several Christian movies you’ve seen. They’ve all been about the family, haven’t they?

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. There are so many families who are broken today that it’s important for those of us who are of faith to talk about how we can support marriages and families. Most of us who have said wedding vows remember the phrase, “til death do us part” and consider it important when we talk about marriage.

So, what is the problem then? Well, the problem is when we put our marriages and our families before God. We put them at the top of our list, and we put our relationship with God second. We talk about and do things for marriages and families in our churches, and we forget about the people who walk into our churches alone whether that be the person who has never been married, the person who has been divorced, or the person who is widowed. We don’t notice these people when they walk into our churches, and they’re not really given an opportunity to serve because they are single.  I resonate with this because when I was a teenager, I walked into church alone. I didn’t have a family who came with me.

God doesn’t want us to put others before Him including our families. There are examples of this in Scripture. In Luke 2, it talks about when a 12-year old Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem. Once Joseph and Mary realized he was missing, they went back to Jerusalem and found Him in the temple listening and asking questions.  When they asked Him why He had stayed there, He said in verse 49, ” ‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ ”

Jesus also says in Mark 10:29 – 31, ” ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–along with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’ ”

Our relationship with God is to come first, and all of our other relationships are to come after the most important one. May I never place any relationship above my relationship with my Lord and Savior. Tomorrow, I will talk more about the people who walk into church alone.

God’s blessings on you today!

Reconciling Our Relationships with People with Our Relationship with God

In my last post, I talked about how I had trouble finding value in God and in God alone. Refer to this link, http://wp.me/p4LK9Q-4N, if you missed the post. Today, I’m going to talk about how God still wants us to have relationships with people even though we are all messed up and broken.

This one is a real struggle for me. I could easily spend an hour or two or more praying, reading Scripture, singing worship songs out-loud (much to the chagrin of my kids), or just meditating on God’s goodness. Then, I would be happy and satisfied in how I was practicing my faith and wouldn’t feel like I needed to do anymore. Why should I worship with other people when all we do is mess each other up?

But, that’s not what God calls us to do. He calls us to find value in each other as well as finding value in Him and in Him alone. A dichotomy, right? A dichotomy that I have so much trouble understanding. And because I have trouble understanding it, I have trouble fulfilling it. I have trouble being vulnerable and real with people because of the fear of rejection. I have gone to the cross by myself more often than not because I knew I would not be rejected by God where I might be rejected by other people. Silly, right? But, fear is one of my big issues too. Fear of not being valued and supported by other people.

Once more though, there are examples in Scripture that state we are to worship in community. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Another example would be from Acts 2:46 – 47. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

And finally, from Hebrews 10:25. “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit  of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Some of you would say that these examples are from the first century and not really relevant to today. I would disagree. God calls the people who are believers to worship in community and be vulnerable with each other in community. We don’t want to be vulnerable though. We want to come to church, put in our time, and leave.  We put up our shields and won’t let them down. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be in a community where I feel comfortable being vulnerable and where others feel comfortable being vulnerable with me.

One of my prayers in 2016 will be that I get to a point where I understand this dichotomy of finding my value in God and in God alone while deepening my relationships with other people.

God’s blessings on you today!

Getting Our Value from God and from God Alone

There’s no escaping it. We are all messed up and broken people. Messed up and broken people in relationships with people who are also messed up and broken, and none of this will be fixed until we are with heaven with God and with Jesus. That is the place where there will be perfection. Not here on Earth. Not here on a world messed up and broken by sin. I think that is the reason a lot of us can’t see our value and our worth in God. We don’t think we deserve it. I know I don’t deserve it.

This is where grace comes in. Grace is part of the title of this blog, and the verses from Ephesians at the top are also about grace. I’ll repeat them here so I will be able to reference as I type. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works so that no one can boast.” I look at these verses, and I read them, but then, they don’t permeate my being the way they should. I still try to get my value from other people–members of my family, my church family, my friends, my possessions, the plans I have for my life. Ouch, those last two hurt! Because, you see, when we, who are Christians, ask God into our hearts, we’re not supposed to do that. We’re supposed to let God have the rudder, let Him be in control of our lives.

My pastor had some interesting things to say about this on Sunday. He spoke of a “game” called theopoly (Yes, this is a made-up word.) where people try to set their own agenda, make money their bottom line, attempt to secure their own futures, and brag about their own successes. Ouch, again! Even we, as Christians, struggle with this. And, if don’t have the money we think we should have, we worry about not having enough.

That’s not what God wants for us though and to live in the way I just stated, ignores some fundamental rules of life which, if you’re going to play this game, cannot be relevant to your life. Number one–life is fleeting. Number two–God has power over life.  And number three–in God’s book, if you’re going to win, you need to lose.

This is aptly demonstrated in Scripture. Matthew 20: 26 – 28 says, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Another reference is from Matthew 23:11-12. “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I understand all of this, and I’m trying to live my life this way. My problem though, for the last little while, has been understanding that my value is in Christ alone. Not through my husband, not through my children, not through my church family, not through anyone in my life. Only in Christ! So, this week I’m going to do several posts reconciling all of that and trying to figure it out because, you see, for a while, I’ve felt out-of-place and out-of-sync with my faith. God wants me to be brave and step outside of my shell and using this small platform that I have is going to be my way to do exactly that.

God’s blessings on you today!

Alone at Church

I could also entitle this post, “When there aren’t enough volunteers”, but I digress. First, I need to clarify something. I’m not really at my church alone. My husband is usually serving behind the media desk, and my sons are usually sitting with their friends, but I think my experiences over the last several months have been realistic enough that I can write this post.

Now, I think we can all agree that every church depends on its volunteers. And there are many who do volunteer–from the people who sing, to the people who serve on the media team, to the people who serve in the children’s area to the people who pass out communion and the offering baskets, to the people who serve on various committees, to the people who are elders, to the people who are on the greeting team, and I could go on and on. These are all valid jobs within the church, and I don’t have a problem with any of them. I serve on the greeting team myself.

There is another side to this though where spouses and families are encouraged to worship together. I don’t have a problem with this either except for one thing. What happens when spouses aren’t able to worship together? There is exactly one volunteer job at my church where spouses aren’t able to worship together at least for some part of the service. You might see where I’m going with this. That job is serving behind the media desk, and that is where my husband serves. He is good at this job. It is the calling God has given him. So, when I feel alone at church, I feel guilty. When I feel awkward about asking if I can sit with someone else’s family, I feel like an impediment to my husband’s ministry. God and I have had a lot of conversations about this. I don’t want to interfere with how my husband serves God. I want us to serve God together, and I want to support what he does. But, I will admit these last few months have been deeply discouraging for me because there haven’t been enough people available to keep him from having to be back there.

I’ve realized a few things though. One is that the awkwardness I feel in talking to people and being around people is a part of my personality. It has nothing to do with how I minister, and it’s not something God means for me to feel guilty about. The other thing, and the more important thing is that there are people who walk into our churches alone, who don’t have anyone at all to sit with, and who are waiting for someone to ask them to sit with them.  So, I think God is issuing me and all of us a challenge. A challenge to make sure we are careful with our language in talking about how families should worship together and a challenge to make sure people who come into church alone or who are sitting alone always have someone to sit with.  Who knows? You might be Jesus to someone who needs Him.

God’s blessings on all of you today!