I have been in church my entire life and I have never experienced community like I have in the past 4 months. I’ve had church friends. I attended youth events growing up and dabbled in different campus ministries in college. I served faithfully and joyfully for years. When Eldon and I got married, we tried a few groups at our church. I always felt welcomed but I never felt at home. That was partially my own doing, as I am slow to make new friends and don’t trust others easily. I’d rather be a wall flower than the life of the party. And my husband is the exact opposite – people naturally gravitate towards him and he has no problem making acquaintances and entertaining those around him. When we stepped out in faith several months ago and started looking for new churches, I was convinced I wouldn’t find what we were searching for and what God had placed on our hearts – not for lack of churches, but because of the hurt I (we) had experienced. When you feel like you spend most of your time on the outside of the inner circle, find yourself devastated by the works of the enemy, and have been wounded by by the brokenness of the world, you put up a wall built with mortar and stone. I wasn’t sure that my heart would be open to the place God was calling us. He wanted us in a place we could be transparent and vulnerable, but I didn’t trust that in calling us there he would also open up my heart to trust again.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
God has proved faithful, just like he always does. He led us to a church home where it has been easy to trust. People have been genuinely interested in getting to know me and hearing my heart, and their intentions are the most pure I have ever encountered. I don’t feel like the “guitar players wife.” I am not another member to check off the “say hello to so-and-so” list. I can only offer God the highest praise because he is using these people to open my heart back up to trust. This week in our discovery group, Eldon and I will share our stories. And as scared as I should be about showing all our brokenness to people I’ve only known for months, I feel a peaceful eagerness to share and to tell of God’s redemptive grace and mercy and to glorify the good he’s been working in my life and in our marraige. Because what I have found at New Heights is community. I have found a place where brokenness is welcome, prayers are offered freely and consistently, vulnerability and transparency is encouraged, and where people are the most genuine and real I have ever experienced.
| Stir up one another | do not neglect meeting together | encourage one another |
Community is letting others in to your inner circle.
Community is sacrificing your time and making it a priority to gather with others.
Community is sharing the most broken places of our hearts with each other.
Community is encouragement, vulnerability, accountability, and trust.
Community is a family of believers coming together with purpose.
Community is not a duty.
Community is not “doing church.”
Community is not an after thought.
Community is not only fellowship and laughter, but honesty and tears.
Community is not exclusive to existing friendships or inner circles.
Praise God for bringing Eldon and I to New Heights the exact week they were beginning a mini-series on Marriage and Family – the exact week we needed to be convicted and encouraged to more intentional in our marriage. Praise God for new friends who speak life into me and offer a safe place for me topour out my hurts and brokenness. Praise God for a community of people who are obedient to sharing what he puts on their hearts. Praise God for a church with practical, biblical teaching that encourages prayer and is full of warriors that will fight even for those they have never met.
Can I tell you how God answered a specific prayer this week through New Heights? This evening I have a seat waiting for me at the If:Gathering saved at a table with other ladies from our community group. The reason they are saving me a seat is because for the first time, I was asked to use my gift of music to glorify and worship the Lord in his house and encourage others to draw in close to Him in worship. And next week Eldon and I will get to practice the vulnerability and transparency we have so desired to find in church. God is moving in big ways through New Heights Bentonville and I am so excited and thankful that God is stirring my heart to jump in with no reservations. God. Is. Good!