“I know church is important, but I only have a few people whom I talk to regularly. With my busy life, it just seems like a long drive. The pastor that used to meet with me regularly is no longer here, and no one seems interested in meeting with me now. In fact, so many of my closest Christian friends have moved on to other places. I feel so alone here.”
These are the thoughts that described my thinking regarding Faith Bible Church five to ten years ago. How selfish and wrong that was of me! How gracious the Lord is in helping me to take those selfish thoughts captive and in causing me to fall more in love with this church.
Seven to eight years ago, I felt too busy to go to church on Wednesdays. We joined a growth group that met at the church on Wednesday nights. I always enjoyed the fellowship in the Scriptures and the accountability, but I let the demands of my teaching job be an excuse to stay home some Wednesday nights. I would selfishly let my wife, Pam, go by herself some Wednesdays and take the kids to Discovery. During that season, God convicted me that I was not taking my membership with fellow believers seriously.
As a result, I started fighting to be consistent in attending growth group. An old feeling that I was just too tired would linger. The day was too long, or I was too overwhelmed. However, I can honestly say that I have never regretted choosing to go to church when I was exhausted or stressed. I have always left invigorated, thankful that I went. I guess you could say today that I am too busy not to go to church.
Growth groups are a critical part of growing in a bigger church. It is impossible to know everybody. Having that smaller group of people that we see once a week and, hopefully, connect with even more often through texts, coffee, or mutual hospitality will create greater opportunities to grow as we live life together. Through the regular gatherings on Sundays, growth group nights, and those informal connections mentioned above, my family has been very blessed by precious friendships that are still strong today.
I could go on regarding my appreciation for growth groups. There are other blessings, however, that have impacted me the past few years. To be a part of this church that has a ministry for so many different stages of life is an immense blessing that none of us should take for granted. I often wish I could just do nothing but church activities with my family and friends, but that would defeat the purpose of being sent into the world. The equipping and training made available is amazing, and I feel like I have hardly scratched the surface. I am only starting to understand.
My children have grown up at this church and benefit from all of those ministries. I am thankful to all the people who have provided childcare for my kids, created and taught Bible lessons to my kids, prayed for my kids, and laid a foundation of God’s truth for my kids. All three of them are in youth ministry now, and there the building upon the foundation continues. It is a blessing to my heart that all three of my kids love coming to church. I pray that this endures. This is where our people are. This is where we as a family find like-minded fellowship and friendship.
“I have never regretted choosing to go to Faith Bible Church because I feel spurred on every time. I pray that God would be pleased to help me encourage others to grow, too.”
When the pandemic started, it was a very difficult time for many of us. God used it to show me how much I had taken for granted. When we could only see people through screens, I realized how much I longed for in-person fellowship. While I was grateful for the technology that made seeing and talking to our growth group possible, I could not wait to meet at the church again with my brothers and sisters. This was God’s grace because, on my own, I could easily see myself using the shutdown as an excuse to just “attend” church through YouTube. Instead, God has shown me that it is so important that I come to be strengthened and, by His grace, to strengthen others.
From the moment I became a believer in 1999, God has brought many amazing pastors into my life who were used to strengthen me. We would get together consistently to study books of the Bible or other helpful books. Something seems to happen when people are involved in pastoral or full-time ministry. God calls those leaders to different places. For those who remain behind, that feels like losing a body part. A great source of my pain and the discontent that I mentioned at the beginning of this story was a result of no longer seeing those dear men on a regular basis.
Amazingly, despite the sadness of watching people go away from me, God is all about multiplying ministry and ministers. God was using those men in my life for a purpose, not so that I could feel noticed and important, but so I could grow in maturity and one day do the same for others. I am excited to grow in serving others as others have served me.
Five years ago, I felt too busy to be a growth group leader. By God’s grace, I am one today. Preparing for group discussions has been worthwhile, as I personally am blessed to hear what God is teaching others in our group. We are all truly in this together, and every one of us has the ability and the giftedness in Christ to spur others on towards love and good deeds. I have never regretted choosing to go to Faith Bible Church because I feel spurred on every time. I pray that God would be pleased to help me encourage others to grow, too.