Monday, November 11, 2013

4 Simple Ways to Connect at Church

Not so long ago, I considered myself nearly anti-social. Fellowship and connection at church were at the bottom of the list of things I wanted to do in a week. On a scale of one to ten, fellowship may have been a one, but only because zero wasn’t on the scale. 

Our congregation meets for Sunday school and shares about twenty minutes of fellowship before beginning our worship service. It is embarrassing to admit that even as much as I love studying the Word of God, I skipped Sunday school for a long time to avoid the twenty minutes of fellowship between the class discussions and worship. 

I have no tolerance for idle chitchat, and that often gets in the way of meaningful fellowship. After all, most friendships begin with casual, safe conversations that grow in depth over time. Since  I have difficulty connecting with some I’ve known for the majority of my life because discussions still don’t get past superficial topics, it was hard for me to keep working to build friendships with people I’ve just met.

But more than that, at the root of all of those feelings was the true problem of why I had trouble connecting:  My own independence. I wanted to buzz into church, get my fill of spirituality for the week and buzz out before I had to talk to anyone. My attitude was that I didn’t need church people, and they certainly didn’t need me. The quicker I could escape the passing chitchat, the better. I was independent and didn’t want anyone thinking I needed friendship. I had friends already.

Now, I said that independence was my problem, but isn’t independence a good thing? Don’t we teach our children to feed themselves and care for themselves, and become increasingly independent? When we’re seeking a job, aren’t the terms, “independent thinker,” “self-motivated,” and “self-sufficient” positive phrases to include on a resume? 

Let’s think through this. The world values independence. But as we learn more about God and following Christ, what is it that He values? The place to discover Him, of course, is Scripture, so let’s learn together. 

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is speaking about the thorn in his side and says in verses 8 – 10:  “Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”This passage clearly speaks of Paul’s dependence on God. 

Although Paul desired to be self-sufficient, He walked in humility knowing that His dependence on God made him stronger than He could ever be in his own flesh. The Lord stated, “My grace is sufficient…” and He desires our dependence on Him.

1 Corinthians 12:12-25 emphasizes God’s design for the people within the body of Christ to be interdependent on one another. Just like the parts of a physical, human body, the parts of the body of Christ need each other to accomplish the whole of what God has purposed for us. He united us into the body of Christ and has a plan in place for us. As we surrender to His will and work toward His Kingdom effort, as we are interdependent on one another, we will accomplish all He planned for us.

The world values independence but God values dependence on Him and interdependence within the body of Christ.

How can we become more interdependent on the body of Christ? I offer what I see as the top four ways to see immediate connection within the body of Christ:

1)     Build relationships. 

This is difficult for me, but God has shown me that I need to allow people into my real life… let them see the real me, not just the prettied up version. When I begin to share my real struggles, my honest insecurities, my genuine burdens, two things happen. Those with whom I share often say, “You too? I thought I was the only one,” and it brings a deeper sense of connection.  Secondly, I become more and more comfortable living in my own skin and walking with confidence as the person the Lord uniquely created me to be. When I’m the real me, people around me sense that and they start showing the “real them” too. 

2)    Show up.  

Learn together, worship together, serve together, and pray together. Any opportunity you have to gather with the body of Christ, do it! You’ll soon find yourself knit together in love with others who love the Lord. It’s a beautiful and fulfilling sense of community. It’s difficult to connect with those we rarely see, so if you desire connection, make an intentional effort to show up. 

3)    Reach out to others who may not feel connected. 

One practical way is to save conversations with established friends for days other than Sunday. I’ll connect with my girlfriends during the week, but on Sundays when our congregation gathers for corporate worship, I try to connect with someone I’ve never met, someone who might need an encouraging word, or those who seem to stay on the “outskirts” of our church body. I try to draw them in and help them know they’re welcome. 

4)    Serve together. 

There is nothing like rolling up our sleeves and working for God’s glory! When we serve side-by-side with other believers, our own unique gifts start to shine and we realize how we all need each other to complete the work of the Lord! My gifts and talents are different from yours and when we work together, we can certainly accomplish more for the glory of God! As a byproduct of our efforts, relationships will form and we’ll transition from acquaintances to friends, and Lord willing, to family!

I've come a long way in embracing fellowship and working to connect.  I'm realizing my dependence on God and interdependence on the body of Christ, but I still have a lot of learning to do.  I need these reminders along the way.  God honors every effort and rewards those who earnestly seek to honor Him.   

May you find blessing and encouragement as you connect within your church body in new and deeper ways!  

Your turn:

In what ways do you intentionally cultivate interdependence within the body of Christ?

How has the Lord shown you His desire for dependence on Him?

I’d love to hear your stories and comments!

Be strengthened today, by His word,

Psalm 119:28

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