One CRUCIAL Way To Prevent Spiritual Atrophy

I enjoy exercising. I have exercised regularly for years. I feel better when I exercise. I’m happier. I’m not as anxious. I am more alert and awake to do the other things I love. I choose to exercise because I see the evidence that it prevents physical atrophy and helps me to be a better “me,” which ultimately helps everyone around me too.

In a similar way, giving of myself to the church promotes personal growth, servingauthentic discipleship, and prevents spiritual atrophy. Giving of ourselves–our time, giftedness, and energy–is actually healthy and good for us, and for everyone around us.

I committed my life to following Christ and was baptized when I was 17 years old. For several years after that, I was growing and changing rapidly from the person I was before, but I never chose to step up and serve in the church. I would hear recruit teams share the needs their areas were experiencing, and I would hope to avoid eye contact so that I didn’t have to make up some reason why I couldn’t give of my time to help.

If I’m really honest, it wasn’t that I didn’t have time; I just flat-out didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to make the time to give of myself. I didn’t see how I could add value to my church by serving, and I didn’t see how serving would add value to my life.

Fast-forward a few years. I was a college student in Virginia attending Brentwood Church in Virginia (big shout out to my Brentwood Family. I love you guys!).  I love that the DNA of Brentwood Church is simple: connect and contribute. Connect through worship on Sundays and in a small group of believers (“Community Group,” “Life Group,” etc.), and contribute your time, energy, giftedness, and resources to the well-being of the church.

If I called Brentwood Church “home,” I was taught consistently and often to be an active participant, and not just an anonymous attender on Sundays. This  didn’t come from a perspective of legalism, or expectation, but rather of love and invitation. This church really honed in on the God-given gifts and skills of the people that were there and invited them to use those skills to advance God’s kingdom right there.

How many of you out there would say that you want to be valued, part of something meaningful, and as though you “belong?” I would be willing to bet that most of you responded with an adamant, “Yes!”

During my years at Brentwood, I began to feel wanted. I quit believing that I was expendable, and I and started to realize that as a Christ follower, I wasn’t just called to believe, I was invited to be intricately woven into God’s family. Serving wasn’t just for the people that had “arrived,” it was for me too—broken, flawed, imperfect me.

I decided to sign up to work with this church’s children’s ministry. I started out just filling in when someone would be absent, and then steadily I became more and more involved. Now, years later, one of my greatest passions is God’s people—all of God’s people—evaluating their God-given skills, talents, and interests and finding a place within the body of Christ to use those gifts. Not everyone gets excited about holding babies every week. Not everyone is comfortable leading. But everyone has something to bring to the table.

Whatever “it” is for you—that thing that you LOVE to do just for the sake of doing it—find where you can use THAT in your church. I dare you to test this for a year. Use your skills and passions consistently and often within your home church, and see how you experience deeper satisfaction, deeper feelings of connectedness within your church, and tremendous connection with others serving with you.

I think that as people we are wired to weigh opportunity costs. We can’t have or do everything, so we make choices. Sometimes these choices are based on pure motives like what is best for others. Sometimes our choices are based on what has the most value. Sometimes our choices are just for the sake of preference and what we would enjoy the most. I know I am not the only one that struggles against the clock every day. I think that most of us would say we want our time to matter and count towards something; life is too short to waste. Some of you might be like me 10 years ago, and maybe you just don’t see the benefit of giving of your time to your church.

But what if I told you that stepping up to serve all those years ago changed me? What if I told you that for the first time, I belonged somewhere? What if I said that plugging in and intentionally saying “no” to other things (including my Sunday afternoon nap) grew me into someone that finally had a place to call home? Serving in the Church enabled me to really connect and develop relationships with people. Serving was the catalyst to me honing in on who God created me to be. I  have a deep desire for purpose and meaning. Don’t we all? And what is more meaningful than owning our salvation purchased by Christ, and embracing the Body of Christ called “the church?”

Some of you may legitimately be unable to serve during traditional times like Sunday mornings. It’s ok to think outside of the box on your role in your church family! Maybe you attend a house church and there isn’t a major organization to jump right into, or maybe you live abroad and culturally the dynamic of church is very different than “American church”. To all believers reading this, I boldly declare that the Body of Christ transcends culture and time restraints. Serving means giving of yourself to meet the needs of other believers out of your abundance of time and resources. I cannot tell you what this looks like for you personally, but I certainly encourage you to search God’s heart on the matter! He loves you and you were made with purpose!

With all of my heart I believe that we each have a vital role. Paul writes to the church in Corinth that we are all equipped with different gifts, and we are called to use them. Can you imagine if your stomach quit working because it said, “This body doesn’t need me; the lungs have got this one.” How crippling! In the same way, we are all a vital part of the global, eternal Body of Christ.

You are invited to be all in and more than someone that watchers from the sidelines. Let’s all get in the game and thrive.

Like exercise, it may mean carving out the time because you see the value added. But I promise that God uses your energy, time, and talents to change the world when you commit them to Him, when you humbly submit your time and energy to Him to be used up for His glory. Serving impacts your community, your church, your peers, your family, and it impacts YOU! Give it a try. Commit to giving of your time in an area that you are interested in. Give it more than a few weeks—a year?—and see how your own heart changes as a result.

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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