Tag Archives: community

I Belong

Words of Grace  

 

A few years ago the “model” for churches was based on the television show, “Cheers,” where you could come in, sit down, and everyone would know your name.  Church leaders were supposed to try to build a community that allowed people to feel at home, comfortable, like they belonged.  I often wondered how that was possible in churches that preached legalism.  (No, wait, they couldn’t use the model of a bar.  Could they?)

Many people feel like they don’t belong when they are at church.  It isn’t only that the people aren’t friendly.  Sometimes they are friendly, but the feeling of being a hypocrite or an outsider still lingers.  In fact, it’s harder when they are friendly.

Think about what the church is supposed to be.  It is supposed to be the local and present representation of the body of Christ, right?  The gathering of those who have been washed, forgiven, accepted, and filled.  Those who belong to Jesus.  But, when the preacher focuses on the sins of the Christians in the assembly, he causes them to question whether they have truly been forgiven and included.  Some look around at all the rest of the people, pretending to ignore the condemnation, and they feel that they are the only ones who shouldn’t be there.  The preacher just said they are hypocrites, that they have displeased God, and that their salvation hangs by a thread.  He just told them they don’t measure up to the standard.

So they go to church but never really believe they belong.  They miss the joy of the gospel, the acceptance of the Lord, because of the message of condemnation.

Listen: If you have come to Jesus for the washing away of your sins and have trusted in Him alone for salvation, you belong to Him.  Heaven is yours.  The church is yours.  All the promises and hopes are yours.  You are accepted in Him and because of Him.  You belong.

You are not of this world.  You are in Christ.  You are washed and accepted.  You are in the Kingdom of God.  You are in His family.  You are a citizen of Heaven.  Nothing can change that and there is nothing more for you to do.  You belong.

 

I belong.

Jesus has accepted me.

No one can take that away from me.

I am His forever.

I belong.

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Filed under Church, Relationship

Fellowship

Grace 101

There are words in normal church vocabulary that are supposed to be fully and easily understood by those within the church.  Those same words may have different or puzzling meanings to outsiders.  We don’t often think about church jargon, but we certainly have it.  If you tell your unchurched friend that you were “really blessed by the fellowship during the mission fest last night,” she may have no idea what you are talking about.

I think “fellowship” is one of those words.  I’m not even sure that most of us know what it should mean.  I have heard all kinds of messages on how important fellowship is, but in the same churches I have seen very little evidence of any real fellowship.  Oh yes, the people who like each other get together and have good times, but that happens outside the church as well.

Yet, when you open the amazing box of gifts that came with your salvation, you will find something that could be called “fellowship.”  Basically, it means that you are now part of a community, with all the benefits and privileges thereof.  In fact, it means that you are part of a body and all parts are important and connected.  Since you are an important part of the body, the rest of the body loves you and accepts you and supports you.  The church needs you, not to do work, but just to be who you are.

Honestly, the church hasn’t done very well with this part of salvation’s gift.  We seem to be much better at making people feel separate or unwanted.  The church often fosters competition and judgment that are inconsistent with the character of Jesus.  Some would go so far as to say that they have found more friendship and acceptance outside the church than inside.  That’s very sad.

But those who seek love in the body of Christ will find it.  There are good people among the believers.  There are people who will help and encourage and love.  Their love might be challenging sometimes, as they refuse to allow you to keep hurting yourself or deceiving yourself.  But there are people who care.  They care because Jesus cares and they are filled with His life.

Just understand that other believers are just as hesitant and immature and compromised as you are.  They struggle too.  They are failures who need a Savior.  I know that some of them act like they have it all together, but that’s also part of their struggle.  They are afraid to relax and let others know the truth.

I have been in full-time ministry for over 35 years.  I have known a lot of believers through that time.  Some of them I call friends.  A handful of them are people who share life and support.  Those few are precious.  They are not users or judges or critics.  They are just friends—and brothers and sisters in Jesus.

I know that some unbelievers are good friends also but my Christian friends are especially important because we share a common life, the life of Jesus.  We draw from Him a common strength and understanding, a love that goes beyond this life and this world.  As I look around the church I see many people that stretch my belief that we will all enjoy each other in Heaven.  I believe it, but I can hardly imagine it.  But these few friends—well, let’s just say that they are evidence that Heaven isn’t just a place far away.  A little of the love and acceptance of Heaven is mine when I am with them.

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Filed under Church, Grace 101, Uncategorized