Being a part of the local church is supposed to look like a family, but sadly too often I’ve heard stories of it resembling more like a house of horrors or highly competitive circus act. In my many years in several congregations I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve been privileged to be in some circles that I believe was what God intended when He designed the church. We had a father/leader and mother/leader. We were spiritually raised together. That circle of friends will always be special to me. I count them as my spiritual brothers and sisters, and no matter where I am in my life I would readily come to their aid if I was needed. But from my vantage point that isn’t the normal. All too often people treat their fellow church goers with disdain or vague indifference. We go in on Sunday and maybe a Wednesday, show our smiles, and leave never really knowing these people that you have been uniquely connected too. I realize that we are the church and not the building, but I believe God puts us in certain congregations for a reason, and within that body of people we need to learn from them and to grow. (1Corinthians 12:18)
So how can we in our church body of believers be the exception to this? How can we show the love of Christ, be a family, and work together in unity? Below is a list of solutions that I’ve seen help over the years:
Get to Know People– When I was in grade school it seemed so much easier to make friends. I’d play on the playground, tell someone you liked their hair bows and the next thing I knew we were best friends. That doesn’t really happen as adults. However, God put you in that house so you need to meet and befriend those people as family. This doesn’t mean everyone has to be your new bestie, but you are experiencing life together. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17) So this means you need to go to small groups, talk to people in the foyer, and get to know each other. Recently a member of our church did something awesome about this. I go to a church of about 2500 and I knew some people but not a lot. We moved across the country to come here about 3 years ago. Our church member started a secret sister exchange. There are about 100 ladies in this exchange and since we don’t know who each other’s sisters are, I think we’ve all gotten to know each other more. We’ve posted things about ourselves on a shared social media page and I love getting to know these ladies through that. These were people I never knew before, I’m praying for my secret sister and I know mine is for me. This simple act, I believe has helped unity in our congregation.
Share Life Together– I am not suggesting that you go around the congregation and spew everything going on in your life, however if you’re going through something you need to learn who to go to and pray together. You need to share your triumphs and trials with each other. So often people get offended because others didn’t ask what is going on in your life, but honestly did they even know about it. It can be easy to become your own island in life, but God doesn’t want us to live that way. He wants us to be in unity.
Deal with Conflict– When I was in about the 7th grade we were at a family wedding, and there was a friend of the families son I wanted to dance with. My sweet momma told his mom I wanted to dance with him and when he came up to ask me to dance I screamed and hid in the bathroom. I thought the only reason he asked was because his mom told him too. The story is funny now, but it’s how most people in churches deal with conflict. Instead of talking about it, they just assume the worst and run from it. You need to talk things out with people. Don’t just sweep it under the rug. If the issue is bigger than just the two of you, then get leadership involved, but avoiding the issue and the person doesn’t help. The enemy’s tactic in ministries is to bring strife and division because unity brings commanded blessing (Psalms 133) I believe most of these little things are just misunderstandings.
Be Intentional– I know this is not a popular answer but it’s the truth. Sometimes you can get hurt and offended. Sometimes you’ll find that you and your kids don’t fit into the cliques. Sometimes you’ll find it would just be easier to go somewhere else. There have been various times in my walk with Christ that I’ve had to firmly place myself to refuse to leave a church until God released us because where He had called me. Sometimes you have to intentionally get to know people, go to those small groups, and refuse to be moved by situations that arise. God’s plan for your life is worth it, and if He wants you in that church then ride it out. There can be major conflicts; I’ve walked through those too. You will be accountable to God for how you lived your life. You can’t let someone else’s issue get you off course. At one time in my life, my husband and I sat back and realized we didn’t know the people in our church so about every month we’d have people over to our house for a dinner party. These weren’t huge events, usually under 15 people at a time, but we got to know the people around us. Intentionally, I would plan menus and get out our fine china. But it was worth it.
Becoming a family with your church is important, and I believe God has placed you uniquely in the house for you to contribute and you to learn from those around you. Don’t just go to church and sit like a bump on a log, but become part of the family. This doesn’t mean everything will go smoothly, but unity is important. Unity means that together as a team you will go further for the Kingdom than you all could have individually. “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecc 4:12 ESV) Church unity is not a myth, and it’s so very worth it.
Anna M. Aquino is a published author, guest minister and prophetic voice. Her books: Cursing the Church or Helping It? Exposing the spirit of Balaam, Confessions of a Ninja Mom, An Ember In Time and A Marriage In Time are available wherever books are sold. Please feel free to check out her website at annamaquino.com