few years ago I thought my wife and I were going just to visit the “new church in town”. In my mind it was just another Sunday, just another church.
The first few times we stepped foot into the church that we now call home, it wasn’t with complete certainty or comfort. In fact, I had personally set my mind firmly against a few things I experienced initially.
Passionate, expressive worship? — Not what I was used to.
Small groups in place of Sunday School? — No way.
So many things grated against my comfort zone, but at the same time, something gently pulled my heart closer.
The pull wasn’t aggressive or abusive. It was kind, patient, and considerate.
Through every worship song, every smile & handshake, every sermon… something seemed to whisper, “there’s a better way”.
That “better way” was shown to me over and over again through various people.
When I finally gained the courage to admit some of my deepest, darkest sins… that “better way” looked at me straight in my eyes and gave me hope instead of judgment.
When my grandmother was unexpectedly rushed to the hospital with a massive heart attack… that “better way” called me at work and prayed peace for me over the phone.
When my wife and I experienced a miscarriage… that “better way” called, texted, and prayed relentlessly for the restoration of our broken and mangled hearts.
I now recognize the “better way” as the power of the Holy Spirit. And His Spirit has worked powerfully through countless members of a church that we now call family.
I love how 2 Corinthians 3:17 puts it – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
It was through His Spirit that I experienced freedom.
Freedom to admit that I don’t have it all together.
Freedom to cry out with questions without being made to feel guilty for asking.
Freedom to struggle and wrestle through what I don’t understand.
The scary thing about freedom is that it throws you into the deep end where your feet can’t touch anymore. You can’t cling to your chains any longer; you’ve been set free. It pushes you out into the open and into vulnerability.
His Spirit creates freedom and produces an intense, burning desire to share that freedom with others. Experiencing community at an arms distance won’t satisfy you any longer.
That very same freedom that changed my life is available and waiting for you. It wasn’t a church that changed my life; it was the Holy Spirit sought fervently and passionately by a group of believers.
I don’t know what your experience is with church, but I do know what it shouldn’t be.
It shouldn’t be about you trying to show up Sunday morning as “perfect”.
I’ve discovered that the church isn’t so much a holy hangout as it is the bonding place of the broken.
It’s not about handing sinners a Bible and pamphlet and walking away. It’s listening to heartbreak and darkness and choosing to walk even closer… even when it’s uncomfortable.
It’s about laughing, crying, questioning, and struggling.
Church is so much more than a social event; it’s a family.
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