21 Jun Come in with the Rain
They move towards the building, some running, holding bags or purses over their head, some quickly walking with umbrellas pulling against the wind. They splash through puddles, not noticing, as their shoes are already soaked through. The rain comes in sheets, and they don’t care that cell phones, Bibles, and clothes are drenched. Lightning flashes with thunder following after too quickly for comfort.
They ascend the slick marble steps as quickly and safely as they can, eyes moving back and forth between their feet and the goal ahead. They reach the top of the church steps, coming under cover of the roof, and enter the door.
They are greeted by smiling faces, handshakes, and even celebratory high fives.
They take off their coats, fold their umbrellas, and take stock of the damage. Wet, cold, but content, they find a seat in the pews.
The atmosphere is one of warmth, welcome, and rest. Small talk is made, friends catch up, and first connections are formed.
These people take refuge here in the storm, but as I watch I see much more than a group of wet but happy individuals. I see my personal refuge. I see my rock.
Church, in the physical sense, is nothing new to me. I was born into church attendance and can remember only two or three times in my life when I haven’t been at a church on Sunday morning. It’s the kind of thing that is a little overwhelming when I think about how much of my life I have spent there.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that this is part of my story, but it does make me wonder what my life would have been like if that hadn’t been the case.
I think a lot about what church means to me, what it should mean to me, and what place it should hold in my life. How important should the details and content of a church matter? How do I know this is the church I should be a part of? How much time, energy, and money am I supposed to invest in my church? As part of the generation that is known for walking away from the church, why did I, and do I, stick around?
“As part of the generation that is known for walking away from the church, why did I, and do I, stick around?”
As I try to answer all of those questions, I look mainly to my experience with local church up until now.
I grew up in a church that I didn’t learn until later was impressively devoid of drama and scandal. My younger years were spent in biblical community that pushed me towards Christ, while being a support system for my family and a place for active ministry with the community I lived in.
In my mind, being at church was non-negotiable. That being said, my view of the church transitioned during college. I found that I was showing up on Sundays, drinking in all I could, then leaving and not giving the church a second thought until next Sunday. I had no ties, no investment, and no relation.
I was the stereotypical college church-goer, taking everything in and giving nothing back. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I felt disconnected and unrelated.
“I had no ties, no investment, and no relation.”
As my life began to fall apart that year, I made a conscious decision, thanks to the conviction I felt from God, to attend a new church and begin investing.
I immediately started serving, giving, and getting involved. I threw myself headlong into that place and felt all the return I had hoped for.
Most importantly, I made myself known there. I was open and brutally honest about where I was in life and in my faith to many people, and I was met with love and grace.
I was with my people—a group of believers who said together, “We’re not okay. We’re broken, misshapen, and constantly falling short.” But we knew brokenness was expected. Christ came to solve our greatest problem and gifted us with the Holy Spirit and the community of the local church.
“Most importantly, I made myself known there.”
Paul David Tripp says this about church:
“The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed.”
Do your fellow believers run in from the thunderstorms of life to take refuge in the warm chapel that is community? And more importantly, after they find it, do they go back into the rain, to pull others in with them under the shelter?
He is using the local church in my life, and He is using it in the world. Come in from the rain and be a part of it.
Zack is a recent graduate of Clemson University and is employed as an Emergency Nurse in Greenville. If you want to get him talking, feel free to bring up any and all of the following topics: avocados, woodworking, C.S. Lewis, handwriting, healthcare, or mountains. He attends our Downtown campus and serves in student ministry there.