Thursday, October 31, 2013

Staying Connected

A couple years ago, our church announced the beginning of a major transition for our congregation. We would be losing our music minister, children's minister, associate minister and senior minister to retirement. One of the greatest blessings of our church is the commitment and longevity of our staff. It also has made for a time of radical transition. Our staff and leadership put in a lot of time planning a "transition schedule" if you will, so we wouldn't be losing everyone at once. Two weeks ago Sunday, we closed the final phase of the transition. We said goodbye to our senior minister who had been serving at our church for 24+ years. Leon Weece had faithfully and wonderfully shepherd our congregation, and the loss of his presence is one that is tangible.

Last Sunday, our youth minister preached during church. This was something he felt strongly led to do so that we as a congregation would know that he felt the loss as well. Jerad preached an amazing, strong, God breathed sermon that spoke to the soul of the church.

He challenged us with the thought of staying connected. Staying connected to God and to each other as a body of believers. This thought has really got me thinking this week. One of the biggest evangelical movements of today is reaching the "unchurched." We live in a country that is void of many "non Christians," and is full of people that have left, never been, or been turned off from the church for a myriad of reasons, many of which are extremely valid. We are challenged to make friends and "do life," with these people so they know they belong with us.

This is an idea that I have loved from the moment I heard it preached. I have always been one of those people that has had the need to "belong." I don't do alone well. I  hate not feeling like I "fit in" or belong. And I never want anyone else to feel that way. So many people present this idea of Christianity as one that is almost like a private club. You have to look, act, think, work and play like we do, or you don't get in. This has burned so many bridges that we're being built in an effort to lead someone to Christ.

However, there is something to be said for surrounding yourself with fellow believers. Not necessarily ones with the exact same doctrinal beliefs as you, but people who when it's all said and done at the end of the day, have chosen to live a Christ filled life. You need a strong foundation of relationships to help you when you go through a hard time. Like our church will rely on one another to stay connected as a body of believers rather than letting Satan tear down the walls of our congregation from the inside out, we need those deep personal connections with fellow believers when we're in the middle of very real, very personal, very traumatic events happening in our lives.

During dark times in my life, I've been close to both active Christ followers, and once that haven't quite reached that intimate level of relationship yet (though my deepest prayer and desire is that they will). Reactions to troubling circumstances can differ greatly, when the advice or direction from one friend is driven by the Spirit. One's main focus is me and the other, is Jesus. One gives me advice that they feel will make me the most happy. One gives me advice that may not be exactly what I want to hear, think, act, or do, but is what the Bible calls me to do. I need the challenge, I need the accountability. I love surrounding myself with all kinds of people and loving them with a Christ filled love, but the one's I let in the closest, the one's that I let see down to the darkest, deepest depths of my soul, need to be on the same page with me about Who I'm living for and Who's I am .

So today, I encourage you to reach out and love on those that don't yet know Christ. Because I do. Please don't hear me wrong on this. Love people. Let them in. Show them the tangible love of our wonderful Lord and savior. But I also encourage you to be careful about who you turn to during troubling, wonderful, tragic, and rejoicing times. We all need people. We just need to make sure the people we're needing will always point us back to Him.

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