One of the hardest things for me to adapt to, after moving away from my family and friends, was the idea of going to a new church.
A church in a city where I knew not one soul because I lived there by myself. As an introvert, the thought was slightly terrifying. I mean, why bother going to church anyway? In this 21st century when live streaming church services or watching recorded sermons on Sabbath morning could easily become a norm, why wouldn’t my selfish nature prefer to stay home in pyjamas after a long, hard week? But there was a nagging in the back of my mind.
The Bible, in case you haven’t noticed, focuses a lot on relationships. Our relationship with God, God’s relationship with us, our relationships with each other…it’s all in there. One morning, after trying to decide whether or not I was going to leave for church service, one verse struck me in particular:
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. (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV, emphasis added)
Well, that got me out of the house. And I am so glad I did!
Going to a new church (especially for someone like me who grew up in the same one for almost 20 years!) is hard. Relationships require effort. But we are all a part of God’s family and we all need to do our part. Fellowship with other Christians is very important and can not be replaced by live streams and podcasts.
Here are some ideas to help you become excited about the prospect of going to a new church and making it feel like you’ve been there all along. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is based on the things I struggled with and experienced.
Do you have a talent that could help the church? Maybe you’re musically inclined and want to join the choir (or start it!). Perhaps you are good with design and could help with some pamphlets or even the bulletin. Maybe you’re good with kids and can help in children’s divisions or organize youth trips to GYC events! Can you teach a Sabbath School class? Cook for potluck? Chances are that no one really knows what your talents are if you are new to the church and area. Ask yourself how you can get involved, ask others what some needs are, and then do something! Look at what Ellen White says about getting involved:
“Everyone should feel that he has a part to act in making the Sabbath meetings interesting. You are not to come together simply as a matter of form, but for the interchange of thought, for the relation of your daily experiences, for the expression of thanksgiving, for the utterance of your sincere desire for divine enlightenment, that you may know God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. Communing together in regard to Christ will strengthen the soul for life’s trials and conflicts. Never think that you can be Christians and yet withdraw yourselves within yourselves. Each one is a part of the great web of humanity, and the experience of each will be largely determined by the experience of his associates.” (6T 362.2)
Take Responsibility and Adapt an Attitude of Ownership
If we focus merely on what others can do for us, we will have a pretty sad, depressing, and lonely existence. As we just read, we have a part to play in helping others! Instead of asking what people/church can do for you, ask God to open your eyes to those in need right in your new congregation. Start small, focusing on one person. It’s amazing what He will show you when you ask, and it’s amazing the needs He can use you to help fill.
Church is not a building or a steeple, it is a people. Church is also not something that just happens to us. We are church.
Take responsibility for what happens. Instead of complaining, be that change!
Remember that Christ is Our Example
We live in a society that tells us that we need to be entertained. That we somehow need to gain from everything – even church services. But Christ, as our example, always served and has urged us to do the same; to ask what we can do for others. When you put others first, it will change your life.
At the end of the day, our connection with God is what matters and is the foundation for all of our other relationships. Life with the Lord is amazing, adventurous, and fulfilling because He helps us through our hardships without leaving our side.
Rely on Jesus
People may say or do hurtful things that can cause deep wounds. Maybe others have discouraged you when you wanted to get involved or do more, or said something that was hurtful. As humans who are sinful, it is almost inevitable. But instead of deciding to not continue coming to church or complaining about it to anyone who will listen, bring it to Jesus. He listens. He knows our hearts and he knows our hurts. When Jesus was on Earth, He instructed us to turn the other cheek, and showed love even to those who were physically nailing Him to the cross. Let us faithfully follow the example of Christ when dealing with others – and win them to a deeper relationship with Him. Ask for the love for others that only He can provide. God wants to help us develop this perfect love, and it is through meeting together that we learn it as well! Look at what Ellen White says in the testimonies:
“God teaches that we should assemble in His house to cultivate the attributes of perfect love. This will fit the dwellers of earth for the mansions that Christ has gone to prepare for all who love Him. There they will assemble in the sanctuary from Sabbath to Sabbath, from one new moon to another, to unite in loftiest strains of song, in praise and thanksgiving to Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever.” (6T 368.3)
We all have a part to play, whether we have been attending our church for years, or just finding a new congregation to join. Relationships require effort, but we are all a part of God’s family and we all have a role to play. Fellowship with other Christians is important and can not be replaced by live streams and podcasts. Our fellowship here on earth prepares us for fellowship through eternity!
Amanda Walter is a teacher, blogger, wife to a pastor, and mum to a cat. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, sipping tea, and trying to keep succulents alive.