I lived in Atlanta for 7-8 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. And I met some great people through my job which I enjoyed. But when I look back and compare my time there to my time in other places (South Carolina, Tennessee, Miami, Jacksonville) I always seem to rank it last. Maybe it was the city itself. Maybe it was the traffic (goodness knows that could be a good reason). But 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 went frequently to NorthPoint which Andy Stanley was the main pastor. To this day he is still one of my favorite pastors and I did love being able to hear from him each week. The problem ultimately came in the fact that I never got plugged into the church more than simply showing up on Sunday mornings. I tried a couple of times but it just never clicked or I never found the right group to get involved with. I was simply attending church on Sundays…or to put it as I say in the subject line of this post (which I stole from a good friend of mine)…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 really experiencing God to the fullest. Today is Wednesday and it is always one of my favorite days of the week because I get to go serve in the church. Do I enjoy hearing my pastor speak each week…of course. But thats not what made me fall in love with the church, or kept me there for the 5 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.”
1 Corinthians 12:12
“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.”
Its not that we are simply going to a place where two or more are gathered as it suggests in Matthew. But we need to be in that place and serving each other similar to the way our body works and 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)!
I encourage you today to take a look at the church you are attending. Are you simply AT church every Sunday for an hour then do it again on occasion? Or would you consider yourself IN church and truly plugged into the church family through serving / volunteering as well as being connected to a small group or bible study? If its the former, I would highly encourage you to seek out a way to get more involved and truly IN church. I can say with a high level of confidence that you will not be disappointed in what you find from this experience.