The Local Church: A Place to Belong


Last weekend, I did something I don’t do often but wish I did more – I went away with the ladies in my church to a retreat center in Pennsylvania. Without kids. (All the mothers in the house said ‘Amen!’).

Our church’s women’s ministry team did a fabulous job of putting the retreat together. The theme was “Belonging” – to Christ and to Christ’s Body.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to share on Sunday morning on the topic of why we as the Body of Christ need one another and the obstacles that can often keep us from connecting to each other.

Belonging Face to Face

When it comes to authentic community, there is no substitute for face to face interaction. It may be tempting to think, “I can just go for a hike on Sunday mornings and connect with God in nature or tune into the podcast of my choosing and receive virtual teaching from the best preachers and teachers available – all while staying in my pajamas.”

Friends, I adore hiking. I love listening to sermons via podcast. But not at the expense of missing out on regularly meeting with my physical church community.

Don’t Be Conformed to the World


Romans 12:1-2 tells us explicitly not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can test and approve what God’s perfect and pleasing will is for us.

While the world may tell us that the physical and regular gathering of believers together is unnecessary and even irrelevant, that is not what God’s Word tells us:

and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, AMP)

Members in Christ’s Body

1 Corinthians 12 is a great passage of Scripture to read concerning the importance of every member in the Body of Christ. Here the Apostle Paul tells us that:

1) If we have received Christ, we are part of His Body – v 27
2) We each have been given spiritual gifts for the purpose of ministering to others in Christ’s Body – v 7
3) We can’t say that we don’t need the other members of Christ’s Body, because we do – vv.15-26

Reasons We Break Away


If we know that God has declared us to be members in His Body, told us that we need one another and have spiritual gifts that He has specifically given us to serve other believers, and that we ought to encourage and spur one another on in faith, why would we choose not to engage in a local church community?

Here are a few reasons I shared with the women at our retreat this weekend:

1) No Time – in the DC area, time is always running out. We are always catching up and running after the next big work event, the next activity, the next soccer game. All good things that can cause us to put investment in the church community on hold.

Perhaps some time praying through our schedules will show us how we can free up time to engage more readily with other believers?

2) We Go to Church for the Wrong Reasons – let’s face it – we live in a generation that is becoming increasingly “me-centered” and “I-focused” (even in our devices). We want what we want when we want it.

We come to church with a consumer mentality rather than with the attitude that we are here to worship God first and serve others second. I want to burst your bubble on this issue: There is never going to be a perfect local church.

If you like the kids ministry, the worship music won’t fit your tastes and preferences. If you like the worship music, the teaching won’t be to your liking. If you appreciate the people, you may not prefer how long the service goes. And on and on the complaints continue.

3) We’ve Been Offended or Left Out – Maybe we tried going to church and didn’t feel like we fit in. Maybe the people weren’t as friendly or engaging as we had hoped. Maybe someone said or did something to deeply offend us.

I’m not telling you you have to pick one local church and stay there your whole life. I haven’t. But you also shouldn’t pick up and switch churches every time you get offended.

It takes commitment to working through our differences; devoting ourselves to a people and a place for enough time to let our roots go deep that we might experience spiritual growth as a result.

Have you chosen to engage in a local church community? Why or why not?

I want to gently nudge you with this final thought: Relationships are messy. The people in the Church are broken and sinful, just like you. But we all drink from the same Spirit and worship the same Savior.

Before He died on the Cross, Christ prayed that we (Christ’s followers) might be unified as He and the Father are unified. If we are willing to confront our fears, prejudices, insecurities, and personal preferences, we will be set free to discover in a local church a place to truly belong.

Gardening for Grudges

to forgive as we have been forgiven

I bent over my garden, pulling a hundred tiny weeds that seemed to have erupted over night. After about 20 minutes of weeding, I looked over the patch of dirt in amazement at how many weeds still remained. “How is this possible?!” I thought.

It’s easy to see a little weed in the garden and to think, “Ah, it’s no big deal! The plants will still be able to grow around that.” But soon, if left unattended, weeds have a way of overtaking a garden.

Trust me. I know. Last summer, at 8 months pregnant with our fourth child, I cried “uncle!” to the weeds in my garden and let them win. The constant bending over had become too much for my back and the result of discontinuing my labor was a jungle in my back yard.

This year“, I told myself, “I will be diligent about these weeds! They will not overtake our precious snap peas and lettuce!” It’s taken regular effort, but as a result, our little plants have some room to grow.

All this time in the garden has provided me with the opportunity to contemplate the soil of my own heart. It’s easy to let a seed of negativity or anger drop into my mind.

That’s life. Stuff happens. Relationships and circumstances can often be messy.

It’s up to me – it’s up to each of us whether we let that seed stay put and germinate.

Get Bitter or Get Better

We have two options when we have become frustrated/angry/upset with another person.

We can either:

1. Deal with our frustration immediately through repentance, forgiveness, and restoration (when possible) or
2. Feed our frustration and hold a grudge until it becomes resentment and a root of bitterness towards that person develops.

Scripture makes it pretty clear which one we should choose, even when we are tempted to lick our wounds and assure ourselves that “it’s only normal that I feel this way.”

When we are tempted to give in to self pity or start blaming others, let’s remind ourselves that God has offered us a higher road, a clear calling to peace, rest, courage, and love – if we will choose to walk His way.


What happens when we hold onto anger? Just like the weeds in a garden, when a seed of anger is not identified and yanked out at the root, it can grow into a garden of poisonous resentment that Scripture says “defiles many.”

Guess what? When you hold on to anger and resentment, who suffers the most? Yep, you guessed it. Yourself.

Offense imprisons. Forgiveness sets free. Choose forgiveness.

It’s impossible to life a life overflowing with joy and love when you are holding on to bitterness and anger: “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” (James 3:10-12).

One of the best things that I remember from our premarital counseling was this Scripture: “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26 NLT). I’ve learned from personal experience that going to bed angry means waking up with those angry thoughts still brewing in my mind.

Settling relational accounts promptly ensures peaceful sleep and a day that begins with a fresh, clean start!

Finally, let’s consider Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.

When we consider how Christ has forgiven us from our sins, how can we withhold forgiveness from another?

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy!” (Matthew 5:7).

Progress Not Perfection

Confession: I am a recovering perfectionist. That’s why, when I was at my friend Molly’s house last week and saw a little note on the board in her kitchen that read, “Progress Not Perfection,” I smiled with delight and said to myself, “I have to remember this!”

When I came home, I printed out a few copies to put around the house. Progress Not Perfection is my new mantra. Let me tell you 5 reasons why it should become one of yours too!

1. Perfection steals from us the joy of “a job well done.” Today homeschooling went well. We finished with enough time to meet our friends at a local park and do a wonderful science lesson on caterpillars together.

But the kitchen is a mess and there are dishes in the sink.

I can choose to focus either on the great things that I DID accomplish today OR I can feel defeated over an area that I was unable to tackle.

Guess what? There will always be something left on your to-do list! Choose to celebrate the things you have done well!


2. Perfection can hinder us from pursuing worthwhile goals – we may procrastinate trying something new if we fear that we won’t excel at it; Instead, we can choose to step out and risk failing in order to experience a new dimension of life.

If there is an activity or pursuit you’ve wanted to engage in but have resisted due to fear of failing, step out and give it a try. Choose to kick perfectionism to the curb today!

3. Perfectionism fails to celebrate the beauties of incremental progress. Small victories are worth celebrating.

A friend of mine mentioned how hard it is to rejoice in the multitude of times she kept her cool and was patient with her toddler because she couldn’t get out of her head the one or two times she was impatient and lost her temper.

We’ve all been there! Choose to focus on and celebrate every step you take in the right direction.

Maybe you hate vegetables, but you know they’re great for you so you make a choice to eat vegetables twice in one day – high five!

Maybe you haven’t been consistent in a regular prayer or devotional time, but for three days in a row, you have gotten up 30 minutes early to spend time in prayer – way to go!!!

But…maybe the next day you sleep in late and avoid anything green.

Perfection says to be devastated. Grace tells you to be motivated to keep pressing on towards your worthwhile goals, in spite of minor setbacks.

4. Perfectionism promotes critical, negative thinking, while a focus on slow but steady progress celebrates the positive.

Watch out for thoughts like these:

(This area of my life) is just a mess. I will never get it under control.
I can’t seem to _______ for the life of me!
It’s never going to be ‘just right,’ so why try?

A key element in making any progress is focusing not on what you can’t do but what you can do.

I love to write. I don’t have an hour to write every day (I wish I did, but it’s just not a luxury I have in this season of my life).

I could either say, “Today I’m going to try to sit down and write for 10-15 minutes,” or I could say, “It’s not worth it if I don’t have a full hour. I’ll just never get around to writing the things I want to!” (Enter Debbie Downer).

5. Perfectionism hinders relational growth – When we choose to operate in perfectionistic tendencies, those closest to us bear the brunt of our heavy burdens.

Maybe we fail to notice or celebrate the progress and growth in others because we fail to celebrate it in ourselves (ouch!)

The great news for us perfectionistics is that we don’t have to stay that way! We can choose today to say “NO!” to perfectionism and say “YES!” to messy, crazy, fun LIFE.

Keep pursuing the things you love and are called to do, celebrating every tiny step of growth and progress along with way.

Repeat after me: Progress NOT Perfection!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...