By Stefanie McGowan
I forgot a little one in the restroom while overseeing in our church nursery, one Sunday.
I was horrified by my absent-minded mistake, yet grateful to learn that everyone was safe and sound in the end. Surprisingly, no one yelled, or asked me to stop volunteering. I was embarrassed, and felt completely unqualified as I called that little one’s mama in a panic. I begged for her forgiveness and stumbled all over my words through the phone. Her gentle voice met mine, and her words were full of grace. Her kindness caught me off guard, and tears streamed down my face as I marveled at her compassion.
I learned a humongous lesson that day, about church ministry and about God’s character. How sometimes, as we minister to others, the Lord is actually ministering to us.
I still revel in that Mama’s gentle spirit and understanding nature. I saw firsthand how from the abundance of the heart, our mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45) As she showed mercy, where judgement could have triumphed, I saw Jesus.
The Lord used my weakness to show me His character, and I got to experience how Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
What if I hadn’t made that call? Not volunteered? Not stepped out? I would have missed out on the blessing of knowing Jesus more.
Living on mission at church (not the place we go, but the body of Christ) means making yourself vulnerable as we connect with others. It’s sharing as you get plugged-in, really connecting, and learning as you and I make mistakes along the way. It’s growing in Christ through fellowship.
And I am completely imperfect at all of those things.
I’m late to more services than I care to admit, and I’ve missed bible studies I’ve committed to. I’ve felt shame for leaving early as I sneak out to tend to my family, and weird thoughts swirl up, like: “Do I go back? Should I even keep going? I’ve missed too much already.”
In my absence, I’ve seen how the Holy Spirit is faithful to nudge me as He puts me on someone’s heart, and I receive a text saying: “We missed you tonight” or a quick voicemail saying: “Hey, you missed a great study today and I’d love to fill you in!” This is love.
This is living on mission at church to those who respond to that call, and it reveals God’s character, as He faithfully draws me back through all my fears and doubts.
Do we do the same when the Spirit nudges? Do we respond?
Do you stop, and pivot for a moment, to go out of your way to show the love of Christ?
It’s not always our nature, but it’s Gods.
It’s how He cares for His church, in transforming us by the renewing of our minds, by changing the way that we think. (Romans 12:2)
This is living on mission in our church.
After all, we are a body made up of imperfect people. Messy, sinful, in need of a Savior. Yet, we are a people who serve a completely perfect God. (Hebrews 2:10)
He doesn’t need our perfect prayers or perfect attitudes or perfect attendance.
He wants our whole hearts, seeking after all of His. (Jeremiah 29:13) He wants us to be joyful always as we trust Him, praising in every circumstance, and talking with Him constantly – praying without ceasing. This is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) When this is our focus, serving each other– even within our faults– is made a whole lot easier. Our focus is less about us, and more about the One who makes us whole.
It’s about our progress not perfection… and it’s our hearts the Lord is after.
Friends, if you’re not plugged into a church body, either because you don’t call a church body “home”, or because you just don’t like people all that much,… Maybe you’ve been hurt by a churchy person (or two or three)… Maybe you’re too busy, or you don’t see the point, or you feel inadequate within your flaws… Stop. Pivot. It’s okay to change course; it’s okay to embrace awkward and step into the uncomfortable to get plugged in to know God’s heart.
Your connection in the body of Christ matters. Your unique gifts and talents matter.
Whether or not you grow in mission and community through joint participation with other believers, matters. Because we strengthen each other, as iron sharpens iron, toward knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. (Proverbs 27:17)
We’re an imperfect body, with different parts, all moving in different ways, but all in the direction of Jesus.
As we seek to know Him, and make Him known, we need each other. It may mean loving on the unlovely. I may be that unlovely one, as I forget your kiddo in the bathroom… just kidding, that won’t happen again. But it may mean participating when it’s uncomfortable, or growing when we’d really rather just stay the same. It’s okay. Step out anyway.
Honest, authentic, real relationships, grow and lead us to Christ. This is “koinonia” (κοινωνία) a Greek word first found in Acts, meaning: communion, joint participation, contributing, sharing in fellowship, community.
We are to be in communion, koinonia, with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9), and we’re to be in koinonia with others. It’s how we love, how we grow, and how we share the Good News of who God is.
Engaging through the uncomfortable, is where we’ll be refined, stretched, and nurtured by the Holy Spirit. It’s where real life leads to real surrender, all to Jesus, and in it He transforms our lives.
Put yourself out there.
The Lord will qualify you as He calls you to step out.
He will strengthen you to be His hands and feet and share the gospel.
Plant the seed of His Word in your heart, and as you fellowship with others. God will do the growing. (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)
You were meant to grow. You are meant to produce fruit, and share those gifts with others. Love each other deeply (1Peter 4:8-11). Share the gifts God gave you, even if you’re just discovering what those gifts are as you step out in faith.
Seek every opportunity to share Jesus, as you set your thoughts on things above (2 Corinthians 4:18). This life is temporary, and it matters that our roots grow down into Him, and our lives be built on Him (Colossians 2:7). It’s how we’ll overflow with thanksgiving as He returns.
Even if you’re already plugged in, continue to pray. Ask God to steer you, to direct your steps, and give you courage to step out of your comfort zone.
Come as you are.
Step up, and step out, and let God use you for His glory.
Flaws and all.