I surveyed the emptiness of our new home, still in shock from all that had just transpired. In six short weeks, we were swept up in a whirlwind of unexpected circumstances, uprooting our family from my lifelong home in Chicago and landing us across the country in Colorado.
Although it was clear God was leading, we had lost the comfort of our church, family, friends, and home, finding ourselves in completely unfamiliar territory—smack dab in the middle of a pandemic.
We were quickly forced into making decisions about schooling, doctors, and basic living. But how were we to find a new church home in this difficult climate? Between the masks covering what might have been welcoming smiles, programs and Bible studies put on hold, and our chronic health challenges, choosing a church seemed impossible.
For a time, I had every excuse in the book to not find a way back into a church. You’re high-risk, so why chance it? You have enough on your plate to figure out, why stress about finding a church when you can just watch online? Your family has so many challenges, you’ll just be a burden to others—if they even notice you’re there.
For a time, I had every excuse in the book to not find a way back into a church.
Since we had legitimate health concerns, we watched sermons from local churches and tried to establish a new routine the best we could. But as time went by, my husband and I started noticing an unhealthy shift. The kids (and me, at times) were often distracted. They seemed to need a snack every two minutes, and our church clothes started to look a lot like pajamas.
We were grateful we could still worship and hear sermons from afar, but something was missing—something we longed for.
Over the years, our family has endured countless challenges that often tempt us to isolate. Chronic illness in me and our children, a child with special needs that are often unseen (or misunderstood) by others, a husband who was on call day and night, layers of loss and grief, and seasons of battling despair have all provided plenty of reasons to avoid the complications of church life.
But by God’s grace, although circumstances have made it difficult to worship inside the walls of church at times, the Lord has continually shown us the gift and blessing it is to worship with, hear the Word of God preached, and do life alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ—mess and all.
As Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
Above all, we need to be in the Word of God consistently, allowing the Holy Spirit to convict, challenge, teach, and encourage us in Christ. But the overflow of the Spirit’s work should gradually move us to step outside of our lives and into the lives of others, worshiping the Lord and spurring one another on through worship and hearing his Word preached.
In fact, the same reasons that could convince me to isolate are the very reasons that compel me to be in community with other believers and under godly leadership as much as we’re physically able. If I’m not, my circumstances begin to consume me, my trials become magnified over everyone else’s, and I’m far more vulnerable to the lies of the Enemy.
Church Is a Two-Way Street
Before we moved, one of our former pastors encouraged us: “As important as it is to find a church that’s gospel-centered, remember that God also has a church that he wants you to be a blessing to as well.”
The same reasons that could convince me to isolate are the very reasons that compel me to be in community with other believers and under godly leadership.
God has given my husband and me a story that includes countless losses, struggles, and heartaches. But he has also shown his goodness, faithfulness, and glory through it in countless ways—not merely for our gain, but for the building up of the church and a testimony of God’s grace to those around us.
We’ve each been given unique gifts, strengths, and stories. But when we see the church as merely a duty or a place to serve our needs, we not only miss the opportunity of being a blessing to others, we rob God of the glory he deserves and seeks to show through our lives.
As Paul wrote, “We always thank God . . . since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:4).
Do we want to be seen and known? Then let’s seek to know, love, and serve the family of God out of the overflow of our love for Christ and our eternal hope. In the same way, may that love motivate us to humble ourselves and let others into the joys, sorrows, and struggles of our lives as well.
Bonded by the Blood of Christ
I admit, starting over (especially during a pandemic) hasn’t been easy. Walking into a new church in a new city, where nobody knows your name, is difficult and uncomfortable. It’s easy to walk in and walk out, feeling unseen and unknown. But the church is not merely for our consumption. It’s a privilege (for which many in the world risk their lives) to stand with other believers to praise and glorify God, to grow in Christlikeness, and to be a blessing and encouragement to one another.
The building we worship in may change, but the bond of Christ remains the same. Wherever God plants us, he calls us to be part of a gospel-centered local church to learn, grow, serve, and be in community with our brothers and sisters, bonded by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13).