Why do people leave a church? Why do people stay at a church?
Would you be surprised to know that the answer is the same? Relationships. They leave because they don’t feel connected or because they’ve been hurt. They stay because they feel embraced by a community. Developing significant relationships with others in a church is vital to your individual health and the health of the church.
Everyone has a responsibility in building community within a church. Those who have been around for a while and feel connected need to guard against complacency and becoming lazy about making new friends. You may feel like you have all the friends you need, but the people around you don’t have all the friends that they need.
If you’re new to a church, whether that means you’ve been there a day or a year, you also have a responsibility in making friends and in making the church a friendly place. Make an effort to get involved. Look for opportunities to serve. Join a small group. Attend activities. Show up for more than just Sunday mornings.
True community goes beyond being friendly on a Sunday morning. True community disrupts your routine. It means inviting people into your traditions – your holiday BBQs and trips to the lake and golf games. It means expanding the group of people you spend your evenings playing cards with or the moms and kids you gather together with at the park. Invite another family to join you in something that you’re already doing – it’s very little extra trouble or work, and it doesn’t add another thing to your schedule.
True community also means going deeper together. It means intentionally moving your conversation from mundane to spiritual. The people you share life with on a Sunday morning at ECC should be some of the most significant people in your life. We are a spiritual family, and the Bible is full of instructions on how to live life with “one another.” Here’s few of the “one anothers” found in the New Testament:
Fellowship – show genuine affection, offer hospitality, and participate together socially (Romans 16:16; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 John 1:7)
Accept – live in harmony, stop passing judgment, and agree with each other (Romans 12:16; Romans 14:13; Romans 15:7; 1 Corinthians 1:10)
Honor – put others above yourself, serve one another humbly in love, and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Romans 12:10; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:21)
Love – be devoted, be kind and compassionate (John 13:34; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:32)
Encourage – instruct, admonish, and spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24)
Forgive – bear with one another, forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)
If you’ve been around a church for any length of time, you will be hurt. And there’s a very high likelihood that you’ve also hurt someone in a church, whether you know it or not! We are a family of imperfect humans, and it happens despite our best intentions. Being hurt in a church doesn’t excuse you from developing true community with significant others in the church. Forgive, and become to others the person you wish others had been to you when you were hurt.
John 13:35 says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my [Jesus’] disciples.” That is what building true community is really about – creating an atmosphere where the love that flows from Jesus through us to each other draws into our community those who do not yet know Jesus – people who are hungry for the loving relationships they will find here at ECC – human love that mirrors God’s love for them.