As I have said in Unashamed Life in Christ, I spent quite some time away from Jesus, from Church, from anything that resembled Christianity. During this time period, if an event looked like church, felt like church, smelled like church, I really wasn't interested and more than likely wasn't going to show up. So how amazing is it that I find my church when I wasn't looking for it and I encountered it several times before actually walking through the front door.
Last year, early November, my then fiance and I were getting ready to go on a cruise in Miami and we decided to take the Tri-rail. Normally we would have drove, but the Tri-rail was cheaper and even though we had to wait, it was more convenient. While waiting, we strike up a conversation with another couple headed to a Miami Dolphins game. This couple could have not have been any more different than we were. Us, being a young black couple holding a conversation with an older white couple about sports and politics where we disagreed literally about everything is not usually the norm on a Sunday morning. Yet, in that short time, this couple invited us to hang out with them on their yacht (remember we just met them), to dinner sometime with their family and of course invited us to their church: Christ Fellowship. As we were talking about the upcoming election, they told us about a message that their pastor preached in regards to the two candidates. Essentially the pastor (now known to me as Pastor Todd) taught that it really didn't matter what side of the election we were on because Jesus was still King. I remembered loving the fact that the pastor of this large mega church addressed the topic head on and didn't sidestep it. As we went our separate ways we told them we would check it out one day (with no intention to actually go), and I thought that would be the last I heard about Christ Fellowship, until the following week.
In the role that I was in, it was my job to look for community based projects that we as a company could go and support. Even while unconnected to Christ, I've always had a heart to serve so when my coworker invited me to a Thanksgiving project, it was a given that I would show up. I was having so much fun during the event that I didn't even register that it was "church" event. It wasn't until around the end when someone asked me if I had any prayer requests that I finally put two and two together that this wasn't just a community service project but that I serving with the very church that I was just invited to last week from a random couple that I met on the train. It doesn't take long for me to catch a hint, and though I didn't have an active relationship with God at the time, I was very aware that this was where I needed to be. From there, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about this church and how I could be apart of what they were doing.
At this point, it's no secret that I'm in love with my church Christ Fellowship and even more obsessed with my campus, Royal Palm, also known as the #FunCampus *throws confetti*. If the doors are open, I'm there as well, unless it's explicitly advertised as a men's only event... which... I still might show up to help serve. It's not because I have to; there's no point system for how often I show up, no gold star waiting for me, but there is a personal reward for fully investing in my local church and I want to reap the "benefits" of that. Even before actually joining the church I knew that I wanted to be connected to this place based off of the experiences I had before I even stepped in the building. The people I encountered weren't just nice people that we met waiting for the train, they were walking examples of the love of Christ. The event that I went to was more than just a service project, it was active show of being the hands and feet of Jesus. This church was actually modeling the very things they preached about and the fruit produced from this house of worship was evident and impactful and I knew I needed to be apart.
Now, I can almost guarantee that someone is reading this and thinking: I don't have to go to church to be a Christian. Which is absolutely true. You become a Christian by repenting of your sins, accepting Jesus as the Lord and Savior over your life and making the active decision to become more like Christ everyday. You don't need a building or a community for that. That decision can be made anywhere, at anytime. But I challenge you to consider this once you've made that decision: how are you striving to keep that decision? A walk with Christ is an active decision that we have to make daily. It's a decision that you make everyday you wake up that says: I am going to follow Jesus today, the best way I know how. Making that decision causes you start an active journey walking hand in hand with Christ and why on earth would you want to walk it alone?
Understand that when I say "church", I don't mean the physical building, but the body of believers all with the same purpose under one leadership. Therefore, church should be more than just praise and worship and a good sermon that gets you excited for the week. Church should be a place you find family, people to walk this journey with, people you can share the good, bad and the ugly with. A place where you build up your faith. A place where you find your God-given talents and abilities and you walk boldly in them. Church should offer you accountability and mentorship, church should offer you a place to grow. Essentially, church is an investment and what you put into it, is exactly what you get out. I don't know of any other place with all those benefits wrapped into one and I would even challenge to you list them in the comments. There is no other place like church, and I believe that when you fully invest your life into your church, you'll begin to experience that as well.
To be clear, church is not a substitute for Jesus Christ. We need Jesus, MORE than we need church, BUT your church should be pushing you closer to Jesus every time you step on the campus.
So I guess the point of this post is that I am challenging you to get connected to your local church. Find a place of worship that you can serve with, plant roots in, invest your life into. A place where you can learn and grow as we all strive to be a little more like Christ. Like Brian Houston said, pour your life into it, and I promise, you'll never be the same again.