Tears flowed down my cheeks as I surveyed the room of friends, who honestly felt much more like family. The event that triggered this emotion was a bridal shower my friends hosted for Justin and me in honor of our upcoming wedding. As I thanked those gathered for their generous gifts and the hosts for the lovely meal, I found myself fighting back tears. Soon I would pack up my life and move from Houston to San Antonio, leaving behind the sweetest community I’d ever known.
Bittersweet, best describes the moment. On one hand, I was giddy to marry Justin and begin our new life together. On the other hand, I was heavy hearted over the move that would take me to a new city, away from my home church and best friends. In many ways, I was saying goodbye to my spiritual birthplace and letting go of a community that nurtured and loved me at every stage of my faith journey.
With a quick survey of the room, I introduced Justin to the community that shaped my adult life:
- Here is the board of directors for Redeemed Girl. We all met in a Bible Study class over a decade ago.
- These are the women from my accountability group. They’ve prayed for you for years!
- This is the pastor who first asked me to teach a Bible study class. I wouldn’t be in ministry today without his encouragement.
- Here is my mentor, and her husband. Where in the world would I be without them?
- And this is the friend who walked me through my wilderness season.
There, with gift-wrapping strewn about my feet, I realized what a gift the church is. A community of believers is one of God’s greatest blessings. I honestly don’t know how people make it through life without the Body of Christ.
We at RGM are church girls to the core. It was in my home church that I first heard the gospel, was called into ministry and used my spiritual gifts. We love, serve and support the local church. And as a woman who disciples other women, I want others to know how vital being a part of a local community of believers is to spiritual growth. I say this because I hear the statement all the time. “I love Jesus, but I don’t like the church.” If I can be frank, that’s simply not possible. If we love Jesus, we must love His Bride. Scripture is clear:
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 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. Hebrews 10:24-25
Friends, we are the church and frankly we need the church. The Church is not a building or a meeting. The church, according to the Bible, is the Body of Christ. A gathering of those who profess faith in Jesus, who are called out of the world and who choose to assemble as His body to serve and to worship. Through the gathering of believers, God meets our deep need for community and through us He carries out His mission. We are better together.
A community is a place where believers connect with each other on a soul level and in doing so, spur each other on to a deeper relationship with God. A community is more than just individual friendships; it is an atmosphere of deep relationships, a synergistic place where friends connect in grace and truth. In such a community, believers can authentically challenge each other through words and deeds toward being like Christ. –Cru Press Green
One of the deepest longings of the human heart is for community. God designed it so that this need is richly met through the church. Together we face the scrapes and tumbles of life. It is our church family who cheers our victories and wipes our tears. When I’ve fallen, it’s been a sister or brother in Christ who was there, hand stretched out, to help me stand up again. Faith communities offer comfort, encouragement, laughter, truth, prayer, and accountability. When we do life together, we become more like Jesus and experience more of Him.
If you are new to following Jesus, or if you’ve been a Christian for many years, let me encourage you with these words: Active involvement in your local church is not only your calling as Christ follower, but it is good for your soul. If you aren’t committed to a local community, don’t delay. The fullness of Christ can only be experienced when we are connected to other disciples. Commitment and community require that we do more than just sit in a pew and listen to a sermon. To build these Christ-centered relationships we must be the church, not just go to church.
Bring the casserole.
Change the diapers.
We are better together.
-Marian Jordan Ellis