Brooke Norton | Student Ministries Administrative Assistant
When I was a little girl, church was a place I loved to be. Church was a place where hope transpired and my own faith flourished. Jesus became a real part of my life at a very young age. I have memories of being five years old and watching my Sunday school teacher reenact the Good Samaritan through a flannel graph. At the age of eight, I remember singing, “Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary….” at the very top of my lungs because I knew Jesus was for real. My friends and I would often run down the halls of the church lobby like little rascals as mom and dad chatted with their friends after church. And I have sweet memories of goose bumps rising from my arms because my church pianist would pound on the keys, How Great Thou Art.
When I was old enough to be in the youth group, I went on ski retreats in the mountains where Jesus became a tad more complex, and yet I grew to love Him even more. On New Year’s Eve we would have lock-ins, and at midnight we would sing worship songs to ring in the New Year. Being at youth group in high school was a safe place. It was a place to question and to doubt. It was a place to struggle and to persevere. It was a safe place to become who God was asking me to be. We asked the tough questions, we shed tears, and we sat together in silence because sometimes we just didn’t know what God was doing in our lives at that moment.
And it was in the midst of this I began to volunteer my time with the Junior High students. Church wasn’t just about me anymore. Church was about everyone else. Church was for those who needed to question and doubt in a safe place like I once did. I wanted church to be a place where young people could experience the reality of Jesus’ love. Because growing up can be hard. Life gets tougher. Experiences broaden and responsibility becomes greater. We question why certain things happen in our lives, and we wonder why God hasn’t made His appearance. It was my time at church that helped me to see Jesus hasn’t gone anywhere, that He is more present than I thought, and that He has a purpose for my life.
Ephesians 1:22-23 says,
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
The Church is beautiful. It stands together under Christ. It bonds together when tragedy strikes. The Church loves even when the rest of the world hates. It endures when being persecuted. The Church fights for the Kingdom of God here and now, and it stands between the already and the not yet.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had the mentality that church is for me. If I’m not getting anything out of church, then I must be at the wrong place. If I’m not having fun, then I need to find a different church. But God, in His mysterious ways, has transformed my thinking about the Church. When I went off to college, I went into ministry because I knew Jesus wasn’t something to be hoarded. He wasn’t someone I could keep to myself. I couldn’t help but want people to know the victorious Jesus I knew. Jesus’ love is for all people, everywhere, for all time.
As a little girl I began to fall in love with the Church. Even though I had a great experience, I could have fallen into the mindset that church is all about me. Thankfully, because of my time with the Junior High students, I know that the Church is for others. I am thankful for my time at my home church, because I ultimately grew to love Jesus more. I have many beautiful memories there, but let’s not forget that those beautiful memories of church can be shared with other people. They can be shared with people who do not even know Jesus. Let’s give others that same experience with Jesus and with a community of believers.
I want to encourage you to ask yourself two questions: “In what ways am I making church about myself?” and “How can I be more inclusive with my faith?” Be the hope of the world! Shout it from the rooftops that Jesus is King because we all need to be reminded that the church isn’t just for me!