About that whole “church” thing…

This weekend my house has been filled with people. People I love. People I want to know more. People that challenge me, inspire me, and that are a part of my life in a way I never could have imagined.

Friday night, my husband and I shared a meal with another couple that we have come to know, love, admire, respect, and hope to emulate in our own lives. We spent hours sharing food, coffee, stories, and real life. When they left, I was sleepy, but exhilarated and full from being in their presence.

Saturday I had several of the women Life Group (small group/community group) leaders from my church over during an open house gathering. Those women are brave, compassionate leaders. Week after week they show up to connect with other women—to teach, disciple, listen, and “do life” with them–through the real, raw parts of life that hurt beyond words, and through the mountain tops of joyful celebration. The women I spent time with on Saturday lead well because they are willing to get in the trenches with the women they serve. That’s courageous. And beautiful. And I love them all.

Sunday night, Adam and I had our own Life Group over. Man, those people have changed our lives. We have been meeting with our group for about two years, but we have grown. We started off with three couples, and now seven couples come together week after week to live alongside of each other. I cannot tell you how much I love those people; when the bottom has fallen out of life, they have been there cheering us on, supporting us, praying for us, fighting with and for us. We hope that we have done the same for them.Church is the people not the building April 26 post

It was a busy weekend; busier than usual. But I am so full. To everyone that stepped foot through our front door, thank you. Thank you for being you, and for being willing to live in community. Thank you for sharing that with our family.

That is what the local church is: Christ-followers living life among one another, challenging, teaching, encouraging, and meeting needs—tangible and intangible. To my family and I, the local church has become our lifeline.

That hasn’t always the case. Maybe you can relate.

I was adopted by my aunt when I was 10 years old, and her rule was that unless I was contagious or had a fever, I was up and at ’em Sunday mornings to attend church. Church was always my routine, but it was never something I loved or was passionate about. Until I gave my life to Jesus at the age of 17, church was the obligatory place I went every Sunday to appease my parents.

When I became a Christian, I did view the church differently. I appreciated going more, and my doodles turned into copious amounts of notes that I have in journals in my basement to this day. My youth pastor taught me how to pray and study God’s word. Church became a great resource for life, but still not anything I couldn’t live without. I couldn’t live without Jesus; attending church, however, was healthy, but not critical.

That all changed when I was in college. I attended Liberty University in Central Virginia. That place is a breeding ground for graduates that go out and change the world, equipped with the fire of the Gospel, and world-class degrees in a crazy amount of professional fields.  I love Liberty. Go Flames!

I got excited about Campus Church each Sunday morning. I loved being taught by Johnnie Moore and others (more volumes of copious notes), but after a few years, I found myself hungry to plant roots somewhere. I started itching to not only gain but also to give. I started longing to know other people, and to be known by them. So I started attending Brentwood Church, a local church in Lynchburg.

And that is when the game changed. God used what I learned at Brentwood to revolutionize my view of church. Apart from my initial decision to follow Christ, there are only a few things that have completely wrecked shop on my worldview, passions, and hunger for the Truth. Attending Brentwood Church during my time in Lynchburg is one of them.

Every week, I would walk through doors manned by smiling faces, authentically happy I was there. Without fail, every week I walked away knowing the values of Brentwood: invest in community by joining a Community Group (small group), serve and be served on Sundays by volunteering during one service and worshipping in the other, and change the world by taking everything we received each week and committing to being and making disciples locally and globally. Brentwood produced (and to my knowledge is still producing) disciples that grow deeper in faith, community, service, and impact all around the world.

That. Is. Awesome. And supernatural. And it’s something I didn’t know I needed, but now I can’t live without.

Turns out, everything I had ever thought I had known about church was wrong. Brentwood taught me that “Church” isn’t a place, it’s a group of people. And turns out I’m one of them. And if you are a Christ-follower, you are one of them. And we are invited into something sacred, beautiful, and powerful. When we realize that the church is the people and not the building, we cannot escape the weight of both the privilege and the responsibility it is to commit to its well-being.

Brentwood Church was a catalyst for me to begin understanding that if I love Jesus the way I say that I do, then I am to be connected to His church. It’s not an invitation with an optional RSVP; I am expected and called to be an active participant in the Body of Christ by offering myself—my story, my time, my talent, and my treasure—to its well-being.

God cares for the orphans and widows. He cares for the marginalized and oppressed. He also cares for lonely believers. And His solution for meeting needs in all of them is His Church.  If we really believe that the Spirit of God indwells believers, then we experience the presence of God not just through the Spirit that indwells us individually, but through other believers. We were made to live and thrive in community with each other, and to look out for each other. We are invited to give and to gain by actively engaging in a local body of believers.

So, for the next few weeks, we are going to dive into what that means. Does a church have to look a certain way to be right? Does it need to be a certain size? Offer a certain type of teaching and/or music? What is a small group, and why does it matter if I’m in one or not? What about serving? Is that required or optional?

I am convinced that our hearts are only healed through the redemption offered by God through His son, Jesus. I am equally convinced that God is passionate about His Church, and that we should be too. Stick around, and let’s keep talking about it.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

~Haley~

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Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist.

Admittedly, I am a recovering perfectionist. I have a history of giving almost April 20 Post Photo
everything I do or experience some sort of “grade,” and anything short of “just right” has left me dissatisfied. The problem is that real life doesn’t translate well to the perfectionist mindset, and for the longest time I allowed myself to be robbed of true, rich satisfaction because I was looking for it in places that it doesn’t exist.

Two things I have learned as I have intentionally focused my efforts towards moving beyond perfection, and into real living:

1. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. The world is not perfect. And it won’t be. If I live setting the expectation that my world should be perfect I will always be set up for disappointment, frustration, and deep dissatisfaction.

2. The second thing I’ve learned (and am learning) is that I can rest knowing that God is perfect. He is outside of my frazzled attempt to create my own perfect world. When I fix my eyes on who He is, I can rest in the middle of my little mess and know that the most important part of my life is not found in a clean house, completed chores, the perfect writing environment, ideal work situations, or perfect relationships. My peace is found when I fix my eyes on the perfect, unchanging God that paid the ransom for my life through the blood of His own Son.

I can live in tremendously rich satisfaction found only in relationship with God. I can let myself off the hook that my sink is currently full of dirty dishes, and that instead of a quiet writing environment with a hot cup of coffee in my hand Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is on in the background capturing the attention of my husband and son. I can enjoy this moment regardless of the fact that it isn’t my “perfect” writing environment because I know the God that is giving me the breath I’m breathing, the beautiful men I love so much sitting next to me, and the passion to teach and equip others to chase after Him above all else.

What imperfections in yourself, in situations, or in others have you been allowing to rob you of the satisfaction that only God Himself offers?  Where do you find yourself thinking things like, “I’d be able to rest if only _________(you fill in the blank…),” or “I’d be in a better mood if _______________”…?

One of my favorite lyrics written by my all-time favorite band, Switchfoot, says, “Manmade never made our dreams collide…we’re awakening.” I want to really live. I want to live awake, and that can only happen when I’m not looking for life among dead things. I must look for real life in the Author of Life, and in the One that conquered death. I need to live a resurrected life found only in The Resurrected One.

Will you join me in that?

Friend, I have been praying for months over this blog. I have been begging God to give me clear direction for where we are going together in this cyber-realm, and after a few weeks of my own intentional silence, I believe God has shown me what He desires: He desires for us to seek Him above all else. Our attempts (and failures) at recreating Eden are exhausting. He desires for us to re-channel all of that wasted energy into knowing Him, and finding that He alone will satisfy that ache you and I feel—that “something’s missing” feeling.

He wants you to be inspired, not with feel-good fluff, but with deep-seated Truth found in the Word of God that has the power to change us.

He wants you to be equipped with Bible study know how. God forbid I should ever become another person that you listen to without you also being strengthened in how to study God’s Word for yourself! Lots of people will post their opinions and thoughts about Scripture. I firmly believe that God is calling all of His followers to rightly handle His word. That requires learning how. 

He wants us to become more and more like His Son over time. This is not simply a passive change on our part; we must actively endeavor to learn, to change, to grow–just like a child learns over time, and eventually becomes an adult who is (hopefully) equipped with the necessary skills and character.

He wants us to grow in our compassion and love for one another, and for the broken world around us.

He wants us to be actively and intentionally engaged in a community of other believers (Church), not just filling seats each Sunday, but serving and being served. Church is not just a place to sing songs and “be fed,” but it is a place that we have a responsibility and commitment to be actively involved in.

He wants us to move beyond complacent, comfortable, feel-good belief and into actively following Him. He is calling us to be a generation that seeks His face above all else.

So, that’s where we are going. Life Becoming is all about what it means to be a disciple, equipping a generation of Christ-focused leaders that change the world through ordinary acts of bravery and kindness, teaching skills needed to study the Bible for ourselves, and strengthening the Global Church by offering quality resourcing for disciples of Jesus worldwide.

I’d like to invite you into this cyber-community. Let’s stick together as we run forward, cheering each other on all the way. Be sure to like, share, invite your friends, and sign up for email updates as we dive deeper together.

See you soon, dear friends. I’m looking forward to it! I hope you are as well.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

With Joy,

Haley