Last night Kelley and I attended a Bible study for 20somethings at Java Bean Coffee Shop in Marble Falls. I usually spend the first portion of my morning at Java Bean visiting with people and reading. I’ve learned that if I don’t set this time apart to read early in the morning then I simply won’t get to it. But I digress…
Kelley and I have really been praying for friends that are our age and in our stage of life. Over the 2 1/2 year course of our marriage we have been blessed with incredible friends. In Hubbard we had the Gillham’s, the Morris’s, the Raley’s, and the Muirhead’s among others. We couldn’t ask for deeper community than we experienced with these.
At Fellowship we are experiencing the beginnings of such friendships. It is exciting for us to think about spending 5, 7, 10, or more years developing these friendships that have so recently begun but already mean so much to us.
But, we have never had friends our age. We have strongly desire such friendships. We have needed such friendships with people in our stage of life.
Recently I met Josh Stivers at Java Bean Coffee Shop. I generally stop by the Java Bean to read for the first part of my morning. He owns Java Bean and invited me to a Bible study for 20somethings that meets on Wednesday nights. It meets just after our Prayer Group meets at Fellowship so it was perfect. Last night Kelley and I decided to visit.
Something shocking happened as I left the Prayer Group and drove to meet Kelley at Java Bean…I was nervous, I was scared, I was apprehensive, I was insecure. I was terrified. I felt like an intruder on a group who already knew each other and didn’t need me to barge in.
I haven’t just “been” to a Bible study in a long time. I’ve led lots of them. As a minister and Seminary student I was involved in many small groups, but all in some sort of leadership role.
For the first time in a long time, I experienced what many people must experience as they visit churches. Fear, apprehension, insecurity, anxiety as well as prejudgments based on all these feelings and not on reality.
My whole desire as I pulled up into the Java Bean parking lot was to turn around. I had been working for 12 hours. I did have a headache. I did need to walk Max. Private Practice was coming on at 8. I did have a long meeting Tuesday night and another one coming up Thursday. Didn’t I need to spend time with Kelley? I had plenty of good excuses. And were it not for Kelley my own fears and ready made excuses would have driven me back home and away from community instead of head first into the experience that followed.
So we dove in. We plunged into the group and introduced ourselves and joked around. We listened to a video sermon by Ed Young where he said the role in Marriage for women was to Submit and for men was to Sacrifice. Kind of a divisive issue and one likely get my blood boiling but a great discussion followed. One where I truly was challenged and thought more well-roundedly on Ephesians 5 than I had before. Then we hung out afterwards for almost an hour and got to know the others in the group.
We were welcomed. We were accepted. People were genuinely joyful to see us and intentionally began the dynamic experience of getting to know Kelley and Matt.
As I drove home, there was air in my soul. I breathed deeply. I felt uplifted. I felt upheld. I felt close to others. I felt connected. Community causes such feelings.
Two questions came to my mind:
1) Are the feelings I experienced before arriving at Java Bean the feelings most experience as they visit churches?
2) When people do work past their own fears and insecurities, when they visit Fellowship Baptist Church are they welcomed like we were last night and do they leave in a state of community-enduced euphoria?
If Josh Stivers wouldn’t have acted intentionally toward me and invited me to that group I never would have invited myself, even though I knew of the group’s existence. If we would have been cooly received by the group, our would only have received only obligatory and perfunctory welcomes, we would not have come back.
If you are not involved in a Church. Get overyourself and dive in somewhere. It really doesn’t matter where. Look around some if need be, but join in. You are missing out on God’s full intention for your life if you are living your faith in isolation from a community. Even small groups and Bible studies are not enough.
If you are a member of Fellowship Baptist Church or any other church, be intentional and ENSURE that those who visit your church are overwhelmed by the joy with which they are received. Welcome them. Get to know them. Follow up with them. Be the love of Christ to them, because it is such love, evidence of community, and potential for relationship and connection that draws people to church. When it comes down to it, slick presentation, narrative preaching, good music, are only a small part of the equation. The large part of the equation is the relationships.