The heart of church lies in the relationships that are built up and grown up by hearts and in hearts. It moves beyond the walls of a building or even the dictations of a denomination. True Family happens when hearts connect.
You have to know your own place and purpose if you are going to avoid letting others dictate your actions and behaviors. Yes, that goes for what happens within the church walls as well.
I’ve shared before the reasons I had for quitting church – that would be the “little c” church and not the “big c” Church. I had the opportunity not too long ago to talk with my friend, Natalie, about the topic. We were comparing different church experiences.
I told her about some of the churches I had attended in the past. Some bad of the experiences were not good and some were not that bad. I told her about one experience where the people gave the impression they cared about you and your family. If you missed a service then you would get a note or card (or possibly a call or visit).
“It had to be because it was so small. It would be impossible to keep up with this type of connection in a bigger church.”
Natalie attends what many would consider a mega-church. It surprised me when she expressed her own gratefulness for a church family that would stay invested in her in the same way that small community church had been invested in me.
“You can tell they care,” she told me. “It’s a true family.”
She shared her experiences and how the church touched her heart.
It has been decades since I felt that in a congregation. Growing up, I attended a small church that felt like a warm hug every time you walked into the building or community. It didn’t just feel like a warm hug, it was a warm hug. I still smile when I think about the encounters, the people, and the engagement.
The other day, I walked into a church I hadn’t been in for a while. It was nice to see things were different but also still the same. It warmed my heart, for a moment.
“What are you doing here?” The words came from one of the staff members who saw me in the hall. It was not the warm hug I would have preferred.
I spent the next hour trying to put the encounter into perspective. Maybe he was suraised to know I was in town. Most of the time people think our family moved to Georgia if we leave the church. I don’t know why Georgia, but that’s always the response we get when we see folks from an congregation we used to be a part of.
The church did have an event going on later in the day. Maybe he thought I was part of the event. I tried to convince myself that his comment wasn’t personal.
The minutes clicked past and others began to arrive. I watched as people greeted each other with smiles and laughter. They talked and hugged, offering warm welcomes to each other.
“Maybe it’s me,” I mumbled to myself.
When you are on the outside looking in it’s tough not to feel like it’s you.
I continued to work through the feelings that had been thrust on me with the comment and compounded by the reactions of others around me. I thought about the time I had a congregation that was a warm hug. I thought about Natalie’s experience with a giant church that provided her with that warm hug.
I was left wondering why family eluded me.
Recognizing True Family
- It’s a Heart Issue – We often think of family as blood connections or those brought together by marriage. Sometimes we think of family as a congregation. True family is connected through the heart by the Spirit. If the Spirit is not leading the way then the connections will always be a struggle.
- It’s Hidden by the Enemy – There will be true family around all the time, but the enemy will try to make you feel like you are out there on your own. The enemy will do all he can to get you to focus on the negatives. Refuse to see past the distractions and the delusions to see your true family.
It’s About a Willingness – We get caught up in similar locations, similar situations, or similar experiences. True family develops when one heart is willing (and open) to be connected.
It’s Never Personal – Things happen. People are people. True family understands that it’s never personal because it’s always a choice (on both sides).
It’s Always Personal – It’s up to you. How you connect or if you connect begins with you. If you don’t invest then there will never be an opportunity to grow. True family starts with you.
The more I thought over these points, the better I felt about my experience within those walls that night. Understanding true family allowed my heart to heal a little after being shocked by the exclusion that at me by the “little c” church. Sometimes healing is all you can get in the moment. If you are willing to invest and you are willing to keep going, you can begin to understand that the “little c” doesn’t limit the opportunities for engaging and growing your “big c” experiences.
Build a Difference
Find your way to make an investment in others and for others the natural path. Practical Proverbs offers practical tips from the Book of Proverbs to live bold, walk in purpose, and settle in peace.