Becoming Part of a New Church
A New Church
Movement happens for a variety of reasons, but no migration is far enough to remove you from the love of God. Feeling isolated, estranged, intimidated, and even paranoid are feelings that I had to deal with during my most recent move- and I tend to be very bold and fearless. Needless to say, if you are attending a new church, it may not yet feel like home. Below is some practical advice at how to integrate into your new place within the Body of Christ.
Remember, kicking it with the right crew is the will of God.
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
1. Don't Just Walk into Any Church
Yes, if we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we are saved. However, believing in your heart is something that happens at all sorts of different levels. You may be walking into a church with insane, backwards doctrine (like Westboro Baptist, or some other church that's worse than a trip to the DMV).
Or you could end up at a church that is simply wrong for you.
The first church I landed at after my move to New York was a wonderful church, with great doctrine and kindhearted people. However, I felt awkward and out of place the entire time I was there. The congregation was primarily one ethnic background, had all come from the same town, and had grown up with one another. I prayed for God's correct church match for me.
Then, one particular Sunday, my ride to church happened to be late. There was one late service left that I knew of: a 12 PM service in a more urban area, Queens. On my arrival, I noticed that the church was at least 10 times the size of my previous congregation...and there were two other services!
For some reason, though, I knew this would be my home church.
My advice, pray and trust God for a church, and keep an opened mind. He will give abundantly.
If this happens at worship, it may be time to pray for a new church
2. It's Not About You (this applies here)
Spiritual forces are vigilant to keep you feeling uptight and nervous, especially if you are approaching God. You may find your brain going on overdrive, and conjuring up all forms of self-centered insanity as you find your new church home. This includes the old pity party classics from your sad-sack mental jukebox, that may include:
- Come, Now is the Time for Nervous
- Our God is an Awesome God (who doesn't notice me here)
- I Can Only Imagine...the nasty things you're thinking about me
The key to this type of thinking is to remember that it is normal to feel this way, and you never want to feel "normal." In fact, you have been freed from the agony of being and feeling "normal" ever again. These thoughts are self-centered in nature, and we're called to keep our eyes on the Lord.
He brought you here, and He will be faithful to fuse you to His body in this new location.
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
– 2 Corinthians 1:20
3. Judging Others: Not Recommended
Each congregation is made up of 2-50,000 of uniquely individual anointed ones. Some will be mature like Paul or the woman that washed the Lord's feet with her tears.
Some will be like Peter, always jumping to conclusions and talking out of turn.
Others may have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Once at a new church, I had a guy tell me that all rock and roll music was from Satan. He was literally the only person I've ever heard that from in a modern congregation.
One person's opinion does not represent the opinion of God, Jesus, the church leadership, or the congregation. Don't let one or two misinformed ideas chase you from a body you believe God wants you to be a part of.
Similarly, you will most likely be encountering ethnic backgrounds and cultures different from what you are used to (because God is adamant about a unified body)! Get comfortable and enjoy something different. Marvel at what God is doing in all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
4. Mr. Lonely
So, you've made it through a few services, and you feel a new church may be home for you.
This is very encouraging! It is not everyday that you receive the blessing of many new brothers and sisters! Praise God!
...the only problem?
None of those brothers or sisters seem to be aware of your general existence. This can be disheartening if you've come from a close-knit church family.
Being a part of the same church is one of the most intimate bonds you can share with other people. I've met my most loyal friends, and friends that I've been most loyal to, through relationship with the Lord. Sometimes, as a person, it's easy to get caught up in the social circle you are a part of and not pay proper attention to newcomers.
It is important to give any isolation you may feel, as well as a desire for brothers and sisters, to the Lord. If your focus is on him and you surrender your desire, the Lord will do what he always does.
Provide the greatest possible outcome for your desire. I was able to keep this focus at my new church, and have found myself making several new friends each time I pray for one. And, sometimes I meet them at locations that are nowhere near the church!
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us
5. Be Aggressive for God
There are three ways approach the church environment:
- You can "do you," and be a church superstar while seeking accolades from people
- You can "do you," and stand on the sidelines out of selfish fear
- You can draw near to the Lord, aggressively pursuing His heart like David
My new church is, I would say, on the smaller side of the "megachurch" category. The services are large, the ministries are many, and the music is bombastic. I felt that the Lord was trying to make me understand that if I didn't take personal responsibility for my own discipleship, I easily could get lost in the flock.
And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
Matthew 9: 20-22
The woman was not healed because she was passive. That bad chick UFC fought her way up to Jesus through a packed congregation that was crying out, bleeding and all, yanking on his garment! She definitely wasn't sitting in the balcony, hesitating over an altar call.
When we need Jesus, we need Jesus. Especially after a life event as significant as a move.
If there are life groups offered, find one fast. Speak with the pastors, introduce yourself to leadership, and smile on Sundays. Offer to serve when you feel convicted to do so.