Belonging matters. For belonging shows what matters to you. And belonging helps shape you into what matters.
Tell me what you belong to, and I’ll tell you who you are. What you commit to – whether it’s a political party, or the Kiwanis, or even Weight Watchers – is about more than what you are a part of. It’s a glimpse into who you are.
This is one reason I am serious about the Church. Despite the fact that Church can be difficult at times, belonging to a church family reminds us that the most important thing is the journey. And necessary to the journey are folks on the same path, as we encourage each other, challenge each other, love each other – and the world.
So, I believe that belonging to a church matters.
One of my seminary teachers, Bruce Shields, tells of preaching at a country church while he was in college. In that congregation, there was a woman named Carrie. She was dirt poor, and lived in a little shack halfway up the mountain. One Saturday afternoon, after she was absent for a number of Sundays, Bruce went to visit Carrie in her home. When he knocked on the door, he heard her moving around inside. It turns out, when Carrie realized who was at the door, she had gone into the back room to wash her mouth out – so her preacher wouldn’t see her with snuff.
When Bruce finished his ministry at this country church, he noticed that nearly everyone was there on his last Sunday. But not Carrie. After the service, when the church was having a party for Bruce and his wife out on the lawn, he happened to catch sight of Carrie. She was limping down the road carrying a big bucket full of ripe huckleberries that she had picked off the bushes high up on the ridge.
Bruce describes it this way: “No gift has ever meant more to me than that one – not only the berries, but the burden. I recall only one gift from that farewell party – it came from a dirt-poor, lame, uneducated, snuff-dipping, loving servant of Jesus Christ. She taught me that everybody has something to give.”
Because, you see, the Church is a place where all of us are invited to belong. And in the belonging, we are changed.
Bruce goes on to describe a number of other regular folk in churches where he has served – and the lessons they have taught him. God, in His great wisdom, knew we needed a place to belong. It’s not a perfect place, because everyone is welcome – and, well, we people tend to be messy. And it’s hard, because, as people, we tend to have opinions, feelings – and sometimes we just get grumpy. But at the end of the day, when we set down roots in a church family, and commit to knowing this particular group of folks, and growing with this particular group of folks – well, something amazing happens. We are changed. And Jesus is made known, as His perfect grace flows through His very imperfect people.
So, I’m grateful for the Church. I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather belong.
If you’re reading this, and you are a part of the church where I serve (which is probably 80+% of you), here are a couple of things coming up at Fern Creek where you have the opportunity to say: I belong. Here.
- This Sunday and next (Feb 19 & 26), we are looking to get a number of video clips of people in our church simply saying: I belong. Let me encourage you to take a few seconds to say that very short phrase in front of the camera. We plan to take these clips and make a collage of folks saying, in their own way, “I belong.” On Sunday, follow the signs to the “Living Room,” where we’ll have a video team ready to record you. And don’t be afraid of the camera. Because, remember, we’re with you in this – for we belong together.
- Sunday, March 5, will be I Belong Sunday. This will be a day for all of us who call Fern Creek Christian our church family to simply, but powerfully, commit to being a part of what God is doing at Fern Creek. Mark March 5 on your calendar, and plan to belong.