I grew up as a Christian but my family and I didn’t attend a church. It wasn’t until I was 25 years old that I realized the reason I wasn’t growing spiritually was because I was trying to do it alone. God in His mercy brought the ministry of Revive Our Hearts to me soon after I was married. This ministry has had a profound impact on me and I don’t believe I would have a relationship with the Lord like I do now if I hadn’t received the wise counsel, instruction, and encouragement from Revive Our Hearts. I regularly listened to their teachings and read a few books written by Nancy Demoss. (I still listen to their ministry and I highly recommend it to any woman). But, I came to realize that having head knowledge about God wasn’t enough. I continued to fall repeatedly over the same sins. I looked for instruction about how to resist temptation and I asked God to show me how to grow spiritually. From the way Nancy Demoss spoke about the Lord, about freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ, I knew that I wasn’t living the life God wanted me to – but I couldn’t seem to get this same freedom that Nancy talked about and clearly had for herself. Although I couldn’t see it at the time, God was answering my prayers by showing me that I needed to be with other Christians.
My life changed when I began attending Shoreline Community Church in December of 2015. I had tried attending churches as an adult in the past but I never attended one church for more than a couple of Sundays. I knew that this time I needed to be prepared to connect with people so I gave myself a pep talk before attending SCC. I told myself, “Don’t expect people to come to you. Don’t put it on others to be a friend if you’re not willing to be a friend first. Don’t be judgemental. Don’t be critical of others.” While I entered SCC with the mindset that I was going to have to put myself out there God in His grace and love brought people to me. I was amazed that people noticed that I was a new face. I wondered how that was even possible. There were so many people in the church – how could they see that I was new? I felt so welcomed. I was immediately accepted and loved. I had prayed beforehand asking God to confirm it to me that this was the right church, and through the love that I received this first day I had confirmation that God was in this place and in these people.
First of all, I want to say that it is very possible to attend church physically and not allow yourself to get real with people. If you’re not willing to let people into your inner life then don’t expect the church to help you grow. Profound break-through began to happen for me when I shared my struggles with others and gave them the opportunity to pray over me and to speak God’s words into my life. At my church after the Sunday service they have certain people stand on the sides of the room to pray with anyone who wants prayer. Having older, spiritually mature Christians pray over me has brought so many walls down and has been one of the greatest blessings for me. This is just one example of the many ways the church has been a crucial part of my walk with God.
Here is a summary of what I’ve learned about the blessings of the body of Christ:
The importance of relationships may be obvious to most people, but it wasn’t for me. I’m naturally an independent person and I grew up with the thought process that I didn’t need people. I’ll go into more detail about this in a later post but I just want to say that this is a very dangerous mindset to have. I still have to fight the desire to isolate myself. I believe that the ability to have relationships is one of the defining marks in humans that reflect God’s image. Relationships are God’s design. We are nothing without other people. God created community and it’s both a blessing and a necessity.
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12
I think if we knew how important and effective prayer really is we would take every opportunity to pray with others. I wouldn’t be able to describe why it’s so powerful but I do know that prayer is one of the greatest gifts from God. Praying alone with God is extremely important but it shouldn’t be the only time that we are praying. I realized I had been missing out on so much when I experienced for the first time what it was like to have people pray over me. Prayer allows God to speak through people. Praying with other people, I found, is one of the greatest means of God’s grace in my life.
“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer…” Acts 1:14
- Words of Wisdom
This goes hand in hand with prayer. Allowing Christians into your inner life gives them the opportunity to speak into your life. Sometimes I’ve received prophecies from the Lord through people and other times it’s just a sweet, simple encouraging word that I so needed in the moment. I’ve received so much wise guidance and advice from Christians. I love to read about God and listen to teachers of the Bible, but there is something different about having someone in the flesh speaking words into your life personally as God leads them.
“The words of the godly encourage many…” Psalm 10:21
“The lips of the wise give good advice..” Proverbs 15:7
So far I’ve been focusing on what you can receive from other people. But an important thing to keep in mind is that people need you just as much as you need them. You may feel that you have no special talents or nothing to offer to others, but if you are a human being then you are fully equipped to help others because you are made in the image of a Holy God. Offering a real relationship is probably the most admirable gift you could give someone because you are offering yourself to that person. Being available to love others – to listen to them, to pray for them, to encourage them, to help them in any way without expecting anything in return – is a HUGE blessing for YOU as well as it is for them. My Christian Theology Professor has said, neglecting to serve others causes spiritual constipation – funny but true. Serving others has given me an understanding of and a desire for the Kingdom of God – because the Kingdom of God is all about the souls of human beings.
“For you have been called to live in freedom…use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10
Regularly meeting with other Christians is a great way to strengthen your faith and to find refreshment when you are weak. Being present with a community that is worshiping the Lord together resets our perspective and gives us a vision for the Kingdom of God.
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…” Hebrews 10:25
- Grounded in the Lord
By seeking the Lord and searching the Scriptures within a community, the discernment given by the Holy Spirit keeps the faithful leaders and community in God’s truth and therefore helps everyone as a whole grow in sound doctrine (Biblical truth). This is important for us individually because there are many ideologies in this world and even in some churches that are in opposition to God’s truth. Therefore, our “moral compass” comes from the Holy Spirit. Discernment, however, is not only found within an individual believer but also in the community of believers. This is one of the reasons why the Bible warns us not to neglect meeting together.
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:14-16
If you are a Christian who regularly attends church but you have not yet experienced some of the things that I just described, ask God to show you who you can reach out to in your church – and there are probably many more than just one. If you are someone who doesn’t attend church then take some time to look at the Christian churches online near you and ask God to show you which community is for you.
I would love to hear from you! How have you been blessed within your church? Are you someone like me who didn’t attend a church? Or is there something that is keeping you from opening up to people? If you’re comfortable with sharing, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
I pray that God’s wisdom and love would open our hearts and minds to understand fully what it means for us all to be made in the image of God.
-New Living Translation used unless otherwise noted-
Linking up with: