Volleyball is the most amazing sport I have ever played. The better I got at it, the higher the level of play I was in, the more I loved it. It never lost its shine, as they say.
In the beginning, volleyball is about getting the ball over the net. Picture the 3 or 4 year old standing by the net trying to toss the ball over. Success!
My son, Ethan, at 10 years old, could finally serve the ball from behind the line and get it over the net. Success!
My first coaching gig at a small school, I taught girls who had never played the game. Ouch! Then, finally the ball would go over the net. Success!
In the beginning, volleyball is a lot like ping pong. The ball bounces all over the place until someone hopefully pushes it over the net (before the third hit).
After playing for awhile, something strange happens. The goal is no longer to simply hit the ball over the net. You are trained not to return the ball, at least, not until the third hit.
Bump, Set, Spike.
The better you are at volleyball, the more you rely on your team.
The more important who your teammates are.
The more important communication is.
The more important trust is.
It sounds a lot like church to me.
There are plenty of buildings that are called churches. There are plenty of groups of people that call themselves members of a church.
Some of them are focused on putting the ball over the net. They haven't learned to care for their teammates, to communicate and trust.
But, some places are different.
Church was designed by God to be a place for the love of God to be see-able, touch-able, taste-able.
"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Like volleyball, the better you get at it, the more you will love it and value it. It will never lose its shine. Never.
Home church for us has been that kind of church. There is love.
Here's 3 ways you can tell you are part of a church:
1 - No Place to Hide
My 14 year old, Katie, said yesterday that she likes our home church, "You don't have to be perfect. You can just be yourself."
When you know everyone in church, there is no place to hide. When everyone in church fits in a home, life is intimate and shared. Everything is visible. You can either run away or be seen. You can't stay in the church without being known.
Being known, being loved, being accepted for who you are. Welcome to church.
Sin, too, is easy to see. So, we learn quickly not to try to hide it, but to confess it and look for support and guidance and grace. Confronting sin is a natural part of our own introspection and relationships with one another.
2 - Everything is Shared
It is easy to rejoice with those who rejoice and grieve with those who
grieve because you know every single person from the infant to the
eldest. The infant's first words or first steps to the oldest person learning a new hobby are celebrated together. Love lost and hope dashed are mourned together.
In church, you are not forgotten. Your pain is everyone's pain. Your victory is everyone's victory. Everything is shared.
Giving and generosity flow from the growing relationships. When one person or family has a need, the whole church feels it. And, the giving flows outside the church, too. As you feel God's love and see how he provides for you through the church, there is less anxiety about providing for yourself and hording what you have. You are free to give to any one as they have need.
The church frees you to love and share and give.
3 - Equality Among Members
All members are valuable. Not for what they have to offer the church, but for who they are as people created in God's image.
There is no place for politics in the church, no place for personal agendas, no place for power plays, no place for divisiveness or gossip. There are no winners or losers. No competition.
All people in the church are there because they choose to be and want to be a part of the church. Jesus lifted up the littlest child and told the adults to learn from her, to have faith like her. Paul told a young man, Timothy, to set an example for others in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Those who are older are asked to train those who are younger.
Everyone in the church is a gift to the church and can only fully blossom if they are fully engaged in and fully embraced by the church.
Relationships are the Key
The key to it all is our relationships with one another. It comes back to volleyball. The members of our church are important, communication is important and trust is important.
If you don't like the people in your church, can't communicate with them or don't trust them, then you are not part of a church. But you can be. God wants you to be.
Keep looking. Don't give up.
This is the only future for the church. The only way that will make the church relevant for this generation. There is no other plan. Be the church.