I had a funny realization this morning at church. Ike and I finally found a church to call our home, and this Sunday they had an opportunity to sign up for small groups after the service. We’ve been in the area for 2 months now without the fellowship of a small group, so we had marked our calendars for this date some time ago!
So here’s the funny thing–this morning as I anticipated this long-awaited opportunity, I noticed a bit of resistance in my heart. For the last 2 months Ike and I have lived our lives, set our schedules and established a routine, all without a small group. Now, with the prospect of adding something new to my schedule, I found myself feeling hesitant…almost a little anxious. There was a part of me that thought, “I’ve already got a lot going on and this is going to be one more thing!”
The reason those sentiments are both funny and surprising to me is that the first month or so after we moved here, I was DESPERATE for a small group. I wanted a group of girls that I could get to know and have them know me. I wanted a circle of friends like I had back home, and the more time that went by, the more my heart ached after it.
So where did this new sensation come from? Why was my spirit so resistant all of a sudden?
The answer to this question is an important one. For some of you, what I’m about to say will be like “preaching to the choir,” but there are also a lot of you who need to hear this. At my old church, I helped people connect with small groups and I was consistently shocked by how many individuals had been attending for months and months, sometimes even years, yet had never involved themselves in the life of the church. What follows, then, are the three primary reasons that this happens:
1. It Doesn’t Come Naturally–Proverbs 18:1 explains, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Put another way, if you want to be in charge of your own schedule, if you want to spend your time the way you want to, or if you don’t want other Christians knowing how you live your life, then you’ll avoid real church involvement. To join a community and intentionally seek our intimate relationships is a challenge to your natural individualism, and your flesh will fight it.
2. You are Too Busy–The resistance of the flesh is further exacerbated by our ridiculously busy schedules. It can be overwhelming to add one more commitment on to the millions of things you’ve already got going on. That was an excuse I heard a lot at my old church: “I’m just too busy!” Make no mistake, building community is a challenge. It requires time and commitment. And when you get out of the habit (as I have in the last 2 months) you shouldn’t be surprised if your spirit resists it. Instead, you’ll want to take the path of least resistance–just show up on Sundays so you can mark it off your “good Christian” list, and then go about the rest of your week. In the face of this temptation, remember that fellowship is a discipline that requires you to prioritize your schedule around it, not the other way around. Christians do this not for legalistic reasons, but because the presence of a Christ-centered support system will encourage you in the rest of your commitments, not the least of which is your relationship with God.
3. A Misunderstanding of the Church–Showing up to Sunday service once a week does not a church member make. The purpose of joining a church is to have a community of people with whom you can do life together. A pick-me-up sermon once a week does not offer that kind of depth. Plus, community serves as a protection against the pitfalls of this world. As Proverbs 18:1 diagnoses our motives, it’s also a reminder that community protects us from the danger of unsound judgments.
So if you’re one of those people who goes to a church building once a week but doesn’t really participate in God’s intention for the church, I challenge you to make a change. Any resistance you’re sensing in yourself may have more to do with the reasons I just listed than it does wisdom, so don’t let that discourage you. Community takes some time to build and can therefore be intimidating (I am totally feeling that right now!), but it is SO worth it. And right now, as the year is gearing up, is the best time to start. Your church needs to know you before you can truly experience the gift of knowing God through your church.