(Photo by Natalie Baugh)
Hope When You Crave Connection
A Discussion on Overcoming Rejection in the Church
By Kyle Jane Heskett
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,” (Acts 2:42-47).
This passage is packed with amazing examples the early church has set for us. But one of my favorite things in this description is how inclusive they were. Whether Jew or Gentile, man or woman, new believer or old, the church embraced others. They served together, they ate together, they did life together. We often face judgment and exclusion from people at home, work, or school. But from the church? Unfortunately, it happens there just as much as any other place, even if you are a believer.
I grew up attending a non-denominational Bible church since before I can remember. I rarely attended the youth group or high school ministry. In fact, I avoided it. I can’t say what it was specifically that made me uncomfortable to go, but I didn’t feel like I fit in. I noticed that there were cliques, groups that stayed together. And although people were nice enough, I could never find friends despite my efforts.
It wasn’t until I started attending the church I am currently at when I realized how much I truly craved connection. On my very first visit, I was amazed at how friendly people were. At first, I’ll be honest, it felt weird. But they were genuinely interested in getting to know me. After my husband and I started attending for a little while, he had a group of guys from the church get together at our home to play board games. The wives of these men wanted to come over too and have a girl’s night. I was completely against this at first. Based on my past experiences of feeling left out by girls at church, the idea of people coming over to my home with nowhere to run made me nervous. Today, these girls are some of my closest friends. God knew I needed strong female friendships before I did. He has truly shown me how loving the church should be.
If you have felt excluded or ignored by the church, I am sorry for that. I encourage you to have hope that you will find people you will connect with. I also encourage you to be that person for someone else. As mentioned in Acts 2, God’s desire is for the church to bear one another’s burdens, encourage each other, and grow in faith together. When we, as the church, do this, God honors it. In the days of the apostles, people were coming to faith daily. The church was a strong force not only because of teaching, but because of fellowship. It is when we join and work together when we see the most fruit, even signs and wonders. We have the potential to rush in God’s kingdom. Ask God about the ways that you can foster this mission in your church and with your fellow believers. Let us meet together, break bread, and praise the Lord.