firstChristian: A place to belong

The following was adapted from Reggie Joiner’s book, “A New Kind of Leader” We are surrounded by people in our community who don’t think church matters. How do I know? Because nearly 75% of them don’t go to church. Not because they are anti-church, but because they are truly oblivious to our church’s existence. They don’t hate firstChristian. They just don’t think about it. Imagine you are at the grocery store or your favorite restaurant, and someone corners you and says, “So really, why does your church matter?” What would you say? Have you seriously considered that question enough to have crafted an answer?  Do you genuinely and passionately believe that firstChristianmatters, so much so, that you have an idea of what you would start to say? Here’s an optional answer. It’s not a complete answer, and it’s not the only answer. But until you can come up with a better answer, you can borrow this one: “firstChristian matters because it’s a place where I can help other people and other people can help me win at what really matters.” There’s a lot packed into that one sentence, but every word counts: firstChristian is a place (a physical location) where you (an individual) can help (get involved using your gifts and talents) other people (someone else besides you) and other people (a community that loves you) can help (use their gifts and talents) you win (keep moving in the right direction) at what really matters (God, Jesus, family, relationships, worth, life, purpose, worship, truth, belonging, identity, vocation, love, etc.). Did you notice how the sentence starts? With the idea that your church is a place. Practically speaking, your church is a physical location where people actually gather and do something. For nearly 2,000 years, churches have met in homes, catacombs, restaurants, cathedrals, tents, theaters, town halls, coffeehouses, storefronts, schools and hotels. Regardless of creed or style, the local church has always been a place where people can actually sit down — to learn, worship, think, serve, celebrate and sometimes even eat together. Let’s assume we all understand that the New Testament distinctly defines the church as a body of believers (people), not a building. Let’s also acknowledge that firstChristian meets in a place. This place isn’t the church, but without the place, you wouldn’t have a place to meet. Here’s the point. It’s important to think about church as a place simply because everyone needs a place, before they can wrestle with abstract concept like grace, hope and forgiveness. People need a place where they can connect with others who are the church. A person’s faith can grow in relationships, but those relationships need a meeting place. Stated another way: If there is not a place to connect, then chances are no one is actually connecting. People gravitate to where they feel accepted. Yet that desire for acceptance can make us all vulnerable to negative influences. If firstChristian doesn’t give our community a place to belong, you can bet that someone else will. Never underestimate how much the right place can affect and enrich relationships. When you get serious about influencing the hearts of your neighbors, you start thinking about creating a visible, tangible place where they know they belong. We have to realize that we can’t make relationships happen. But we can create environments that make it easier for relationships to happen. firstChristian can create environments where people actually want to be and where they know they belong. Think about what you do when you invite guests to your home? You clean up. You organize the clutter. You sweep the floor. You light a candle. If they are staying overnight, you change the sheets, lay out clean towels, and get food and drinks. It’s simply a way of letting someone know you were thinking about them before they got there. Every time people drive or walk by our building, they think about God. Or they at least may get some preconceived image of God in their minds. You have the potential to change how they see firstChristian because you are the church. Even though our building may be the first impression people have of firstChristian, you are the most important impression people have. So join us in making necessary improvements so everyone feels more welcomed, stays more engaged and firmly believes that they have a place to belong at firstChristian. What if we started acting like firstChristian was the best chance our neighbors had to find a place to belong? Stay Salty, My Friends (Mt. 5:13),

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