It is popular today to criticize the church. Especially my generation. We are individualistic and lessen our “need” for community. We got this thing. We don’t need anyone else. We are eaten up with pride, bottom line.
But understand this: When you criticize the church, you are criticizing someone Jesus loves. His bride, actually. Now, I am not married, so I won’t speak from experience. But I will bet my bottom dollar that if someone criticized your spouse, you wouldn’t just sit back and bite your tongue.
God has really been showing me the importance of commitment to the church in my almost year out of treatment. To see how the Body of Christ has operated in the churches I have been a part of blows my mind. I DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED. I came from Grace Fellowship in Anniston, the church I was a part of for 8 years. This church set a solid foundation that I was able to build on after I truly surrendered to Christ last year. The people of Grace were very longsuffering in their love for me. Some of the most loving, sacrificial, truth speaking people that I know are a part of Grace.
So when I decided to stay in Gadsden after leaving treatment, I knew that finding a church was of the utmost importance. When I walked into the first (and only) church I visited, I saw a sanctuary full of faces and felt downright scared. I was the girl who had just left rehab. If they find out, surely I will be shunned. I had no idea what God was about to do in my life the day that I stepped foot in the new building on November 4, 2012. These people embraced me. My heart could explode inside of me thinking about it. It was a church of people who lay down their lives for each other and for the purpose of Christ. It is a group of people who crave truth and are some of the most self-less people that I know. The church is vital to my life. I fully believe that God has organized it so that we operate at our best and for his glory in the context of a church. And I am here to tell you that I need the church.
I need the church because I need a family. Being in Gadsden with no family COULD be very hard. And some days it is. Some days I want to just go home and relax and be with my family. But every single day of my life, my faith family ministers to me in even the most subtle of ways.
I need the church because I have a terrible memory. Let me explain. So often, I resort back to living with the mindset of an orphaned child instead of an heir to the throne. I need to remember who I am and who my Father is. I need to be reminded of truth daily. And my church is a vital part of that.
I need the church because I need to serve. I live alone. I work in an office alone. The temptation to stay introspective and internally focused is too great not to serve you and alongside you. What a tragedy it would be if I lived my life in seclusion!
I need the church because I need accountability. I need to stay in the light and I need to be known and honest. I need to be real and leave my mask at the door. You people at my church now encourage that.
I need the church because I need to pray with you. There is something mysterious about going to the throne room with other believers. I need to hear your prayers to learn to pray more. I need to watch our Heavenly Father increase our faith by answering our prayers. And on Wednesday nights, that is exactly what we are doing. We are praying through Acts: Lord, do it again in Gadsden!
I need the church because I need to pray for you. I need to carry your burdens.
I need the church because quite frankly, you need me. Sounds egotistical, huh? I don’t mean it that way. But God’s word says that we need each other. Just as I need your strengths to offset some of my weaknesses, you need mine.
I need the church because I am prone to wander. I am prone to leave the God I love.
I need the church because I need correction. Being a product of church discipline, I am big on tough love. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it is one of the most humiliating things that has ever happened to me. But it saved my life. I need to be carried when I can’t walk.
I need the church because I want to give my life away to the next generation. Your children are important. It is my responsibility as your sister in Christ to come alongside you as you train your children.
I am thriving in this season of my life and I believe that it is because I have pressed into the body of Christ. The true, authentic, organic, messy, far-from-perfect-but-desperate-for-his-grace body of Christ.
Please hear me say that I have not been the perfect church member—actually far from it. I have failed the church time and time again. But my heart is to see the body of Christ function in the way that God designed. As one. I am super relational and when I become friends with someone, I become friends with their kids, too. If I love them, my love extends to their family. And their kids become like nieces and nephews to me. In the same way, when we love God, we will love his children. And if you don’t love his children, it must be questioned how much you really love God. And you don’t have to quote me on that. It’s scripture.
"If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."
1 John 4:20
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. " 1 John 5:1
The church is my lifeline. I am beyond blessed to have been a part of two amazing churches. Being a single woman, I depend heavily on my church. You are the most important people in my life. I have never experienced friendships and community like I am now.. Let me say it again: the church is my lifeline. I need the church.
So, to my faithful brothers and sisters in Christ at Grace Fellowship: your commitment to God and his word coupled with your investment into me is one of the biggest reasons that I can say I know my Heavenly Father. Words cannot thank you enough.
And to my faith family now, I want to say this: the truth, the smiles, the consistency, the gospel, the worship, the prayers, the love, the burdens, the day to day events, the meals that I share with you all (because we do love to eat!!) have been life-changing. You’ll never know how much gratitude is in my heart for you all. My prayer is that my actions always show it.
Thank you all for being faithful to the church.
"And 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, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."