I first learned the concept of being at church or in church when I lived in Atlanta for eight months back in 2007. Looking back, there were great aspects of my time there. I was able to spend a lot of time with my aunt, who lived in the city. I was able to spend time with a good friend from my childhood and his wife who lived there. Also, I met some great people through my job, which I enjoyed.
When I look back and compare my time there to my time in other places (South Carolina, Tennessee, Miami, and Jacksonville), I always seem to rank it last. Perhaps it was the city itself. Maybe it was the traffic (goodness knows that could be a good reason). However, I honestly think it was the difference in the church and the experience I had.
Now don’t get me wrong; the church I went to was phenomenal. I was there for the opening service of Buckhead Church’s new building and frequently went to NorthPoint which Andy Stanley was the lead pastor. To this day, he is still one of my favorite pastors. I loved being able to hear from him each week. The problem ultimately came in the fact that I never got plugged into the church. All I ever did was show up on Sunday mornings. I tried a couple of times, but it just never clicked. I never found the right group to get involved with. As a result, I was simply attending church on Sundays.
My problem was this: I was AT church not IN church.
I can’t stress to you enough how much of a difference this makes in terms of enjoying church and experiencing God to the fullest. Today is Wednesday, and it is always one of my favorite days of the week because I get to serve in the church. Do I enjoy hearing my pastor speak each week? Of course! However, that’s not what made me fall in love with the church or kept me there for the five years I have been attending. It was the culture of serving and volunteering, and the community made me stay.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20
It’s not that we are merely going to a place where two or more are gathered as it suggests in Matthew. It’s that we need to be in that place serving each other. What I’m suggesting is similar to the way our body works. The individual pieces serve the greater good of the entire body. Think about it; even Jesus went so far as to serve the disciples by washing their feet (John 13)!
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12
I encourage you today to take a look at the church you are attending. Are you simply AT church every Sunday for an hour? Alternatively, would you consider yourself IN church? To be IN church, you must take it a step further than attending. To be IN church, you must engage in the community through serving/volunteering or connecting to a small group/bible study. I highly encourage you to seek out a way to get more involved at your church so you can truly be IN church. I can say with a high level of confidence that you will not be disappointed in what you find from this experience.