We know that community is important to God. He is one God, with three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He made Adam and Eve because it was “not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) He sent out the disciples two by two. He reminds us to “not neglect meeting together.” (Hebrews 10:25)
It is not a surprise then when we hear the phrase, “It takes a village.” This statement holds true for one’s spiritual growth and journey. If you think back on your life and consider who influenced your spiritual journey, you will most likely think of not just one, but a handful of people whose unique personalities, traits, and gifts God used to bring you closer to Him.
I would love to invite you to read glimpses of how the church has blessed me in my walk with Christ. Beauty is seen and experienced when we love and serve one another. The moments shared below are windows into what God’s kingdom in heaven looks like here on earth.
The Love of the Church Body
When you are a child, a big incentive for you to attend church is childrens’ ministry. I remember as an elementary school kid, loving GA’s (Girls in Action) and choir! Ms. Doreen Howell was my Girls In Action teacher and taught me the importance of remembering to pray for others. Mr. and Mrs. Mort and Anna Hanna taught Bible Drill which my sisters were involved in. I would sit in on practices with them while we waited for my mom to get off work. Ms. Hanna taught me the cost of following Christ and the power of Jesus’s name during spiritual attack.
We moved to a new church while I was in middle school. At the time (and still some today), I struggled with severe OCD. I couldn’t move past pages I needed to read for school as I needed to make sure I read every word, line, and mark on each page. My grades plummeted, and my dad believed I was distracted by cute boys at school. He did not realize I was suffering from OCD, but knew I needed some help academically. The pastor’s wife, Ms. Shulte, came over to our house and showed me how to take efficient notes using the main body of a paper and also the margins. She took time out of her day, from her dependent-aged kids, and sat with me teaching me what worked for her children.
When high school rolled around, we moved to a small church close to home. Our pastor, John Ratliff, became the first pastor I sincerely admired and genuinely liked. As a 50-something year-old pastor, a young person could approach him and feel like they are sharing company with a friend. His wife, Niki, was always so kind to my family and sisters and always shared her potluck recipes to my sisters eager to make the dish on their own. When I graduated highschool, John Ratliff and the elder board gave me and the other graduating senior study bibles with a written message and date. This bible is very special to me as each person who signed the bible invested in my life in significant ways. I still use this Bible today.
Right before I graduated UT, I got plugged into a non-denominational church on campus that was composed of mostly college students. When I think about sacrifice and putting aside your desires to minister to young people, I think of this church body. We were a church plant and our sending church sent older couples to invest relationally in this new church. These “seasoned” couples served this church by discipling and mentoring the college student body. Kristin Cochran led a girls’ small group. She shared a method she uses for her devotional times in scripture – read just a few verses in a passage or read until you find a verse you really enjoy; then journal about what you read. This method absolutely transformed how I engaged scripture. I started enjoying my time in God’s word. This is still my favorite and preferred method to read scripture today.
I was discipled by Donna Cagle at this church. She shared with me her life, the challenges of being a wife and mother, and what it looks like to follow Christ through it all. Donna would pray for my prayer requests, showed me what biblical womanhood looked like, and walked with me as we did a study on anger together, an area I struggle in. I met some of my best friends at this church including Lindsey Courage and Kristine Gregory. Lindsey taught me to welcome times when friends approach you to lovingly point out areas of your life that do not glorify God. She taught me to see these times as opportunities to be sanctified and grow in spiritual maturity in my walk with Christ. Kristine taught me what it looks like to be generous with my income. More times than I can count, she would outright pay for substantial things when finances were a barrier, even if I protested. Though we are cities apart now, Kristine still makes it a point to call me regularly, check in on me, and ask how she can pray for me.
Six years later, I am at another church plant from the same sending church. I meet Danuta Dias, and we become friends and accountability partners. Danuta stood with me, prayed and cried with me as my family experienced a very difficult situation. Samantha Jaramillo taught me how to give grace and show kindness to others in situations when they are unkind. Julie Mech and Anne Fu showed me what thoughtfulness and thinking of others looks like and the gift of giving. Tamia Thompson still teaches me what it looks like to be on fire for Christ. Aneasha Lawrence continues to show me God’s joy and His gentle spirit toward others.
At the time of this post, I attend a brand new church plant. Our official launch is this fall. Our lead pastor and executive pastor are in their 30’s. We are composed of young professionals, college students, young families and a few “seasoned” individuals. This small church community challenges and encourages me in special ways. Rachel Guerrero and Micah Foster pray for me every Friday morning. Jermane and Kali Hunt have served me by cleaning my kitchen after community group. They have shown me what forgiveness looks like and Christ’s love. Josh Guerrero teaches me what it looks like to constantly lift people up with your words, speaking words of exhortation and affirmation to them. Misty Nodine follows up with me during the week asking how a particular prayer request is going. Carol Pagel tells me I am loved just the way I am (dorkiness and all).
There are so many more people who have impacted my life, ministered to me, and have shown and taught me what it looks like to follow Christ whom I am unable to individually mention here. You know who you are!
The Church Body’s Blessing
Each person listed above pointed me in the direction of Jesus. They loved me, invested in my life, prayed for me and spiritually encouraged me. When we allow God to use us as a vessel to love and care for those around us with His love, God’s glory is manifested and lives are changed. It takes a village. We are not silos and we learn about God’s love, grace, forgiveness and restoration from each other.
The examples given above are examples within the church. If we, as God’s people, take this into our communities, how different our communities would look! You and I today, with His power in us, have the ability to show His beautiful kingdom to those around us.
Whose legacy are you shaped by and who is being shaped by you?
As the church is meant to be a blessing to each other and to our world, I leave you with a song that has spread like wildfire across the world in the last two months. Recordings have come pouring in including those from the U.S., the United Kingdom, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada, South Korea, Malaysia, Australia, and Latin America. The people of God around the world are singing blessings over their cities, countries and communities. May you be blessed today by God’s people, His church.