Everybody in the world wants to belong to something — if you think about the heart behind people joining gangs it is often more about the desire to feel like they’re a part of something than wanting to be destructive. The core desire of every human being is to be connected to others.* Yet so often in the church, I see that the Body of Christ is disjointed, disconnected and disengaged from one another, filled with a crowd of self-identified outsiders who never take the vital leap towards others that brings true belonging.
One prime example of this is when people come up to us leaders at church with good intentions and make comments like, “You know what you guys should do…”
Maybe you’ve found yourself thinking this towards your church. Perhaps you’re waiting for permission to be a part of the group, to be invited in, and to be told that your opinions and voice have a place. Maybe you even get frustrated with how things are run, but never really dive in to be a part of the solution?
Is it possible that you go to Sunday services but don’t really consider your Church your home, or the people in it your family? There’s a very big difference between seeing a community as simply “a church” versus “your church.” The distinction between the two reveals the disconnection between being someone who observes from the outside versus truly belonging to a group. So what’s missing when you only show up on a Sunday as a distant consumer?
I want to remind you today that the Lord puts the lonely into a family (Psalm 68:6). Your desire to belong is a Godly one, and the Lord is not withholding His family from you. I propose that the connection to others that you long for is standing on the other side of overcoming pain from past communities or letting go of passivity and the fear of not being accepted.
• You were saved into a family! You are one body with Christ. When you became a Christian you started carrying the name of Christ and were born as a new creation into this family.
• There is an order to belonging. First people belong, then they believe, then they behave. Religion gets this backward. Religion tries to control people’s behavior by making them believe something before giving them a place of belonging. This is one of the main reasons people struggle with not feeling like they belong in the Church.
• The process of belonging to a church looks like this:
◦ I visited their church.
◦ I go to that church.
◦ I attend X Church (we give it a name).
◦ I’m a part of X Church.
◦ I belong to X Church. (Something shifts in us when we feel like we belong.)
◦ The lasts step is: “This is my/our church.”
• It’s not until you take ownership over something that you’ll actually influence it.
• People stand on the outside and tell us, “This is something you guys should do.” However, it’s really challenging to take advice from someone who isn’t invested in our family.
Belonging requires a few things from us and the group:
• A name—I have an identity.
• I am known—I have a community.
• I am accepted—I have a people.
• I am valued—I am significant.
• I share ownership—I have a place.
• I share responsibility—I have a role.
• I share common core values or DNA—we think alike.
• I share an agreed upon vision—we have a common purpose.
THE MESSY TRUTH
The messy truth about belonging is that it takes risk! You have to leave your weapons at the door, let down your walls, and be okay with the fact that it will cost you something to truly be connected to a group of people. So often the fear of being wounded, often rooted in pain from past experiences, keeps us from fully giving ourselves to a community. I’ve seen people pick apart church leadership for the sake of justifying their own previous experiences yet what we forget is that there’s no such thing as a perfect church or a flawless family, and you have to be vulnerable if you want to belong.
Fulfilling your desire to be seen and known begins with first taking off the armor that you think is protecting you from pain. The truth is it’s really just shutting you out from the possibility of love and belonging. I know this is hard to do when you’ve been hurt by love in the past, but today I want to encourage you to take a chance on love again!
DON’T LET PAST HURTS STEAL YOUR LIFE
God is bigger than any person’s ability to hurt you, so don’t let pain steal your life and shut you up in an ice castle. You were created to have ownership of a people! You were born to belong.
Whether it feels like it or not, the truth is that you are in the family of God and as a Christian, you carry the name of the Body of Christ. You have a place that only you can fill. If you don’t show up, there’s a gaping hole in the Body. So we need you to be fully you, to take a risk of vulnerability, and to actually make a practical step towards your place in our family!
If you’re reading this today and struggle to feel like you’re accepted, seen and valued, I pray that you would find comfort in Holy Spirit and courage to take a step towards connection today — laying down every weapon of judgment, criticism or fear. I pray that the revelation of the family of God you’ve been born into would resonate over your heart with a new weight and confidence! Remember, you were born to belong! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!