From the Outside Looking In
by Donna Ebanks
Associate Pastor of Women’s Ministries
I recently had the privilege to attend a ConnXtions Tour lead by Pastor Nate. If you have never been to a ConnXtions Tour and you are fairly new to our church, or if you have been coming a while but you want to learn how you can have a deeper connection, I highly recommend it. At the event you can learn about our mission and vision for the church and ask questions regarding specific areas of ministry to help you plug into life at the Naz. Sandwiched in between a short presentation, a tour of the church, and a meal, was a time for those in attendance to share their spiritual journeys: What led them to us and what they are looking for in a church. The group was very open in sharing about their relationship with the Lord and what they have experienced as they worshiped with us. They specifically shared how they felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in our worship. Even though each story was very inspiring and unique there was a lot of common ground in experiences and in their expectations for a place to call their church home. They shared their desire to become a part of a community of believers that genuinely studies the scriptures to apply it to their lives and to go deeper in their relationship with Christ. A couple of those present have children and the kids even shared their testimony and how quickly they felt a part of us. I went home that night feeling a great sense of thankfulness to the Lord for what He has done and what He is doing in the life of our church. I am really proud of my church family and very thankful for the honest feedback of those present at the meeting.
As wonderful as the meeting was, I was hoping to meet someone who did not know Christ or someone who may have known Him but has fallen away from a relationship with Him. Please understand me, I would love it if everyone knew Him, loved Him and served Him, but I know that is not a true picture of our present world. I was once one of those people who came into a church with no intimate knowledge of God. In fact I had very little true knowledge of Him, but I was seeking to know Him. I was discipled by my neighbor Evis, whom I had grown to trust and appreciate, and she led me to a church. I was 23 years old at the time.
In his book Multiply, Francis Chan asked “Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a disciple maker? “Being a disciple maker means that you will need to begin to look at the people in your life differently. Every person in your life is created in the image of God, and Jesus commands every one of them to follow Him. God has placed these people in your life so that you will do everything you can to influence them. Following Jesus means that you will be reaching other people to follow Jesus.”
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)
"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)
The summer is a great time to get to know your neighbors or a co-worker. Make a plan to invite someone over for dinner, or to our last church picnic to build a relationship that can last forever. Pray for your neighbor or co-worker by name. Ask God to provide an opportunity for a relationship to grow. Evis was not the best cook, nor did she have a great house or influential friends. Very quickly I learned that Evis loved the Lord and was genuinely concerned for my soul. After all these years I have never forgotten her and, over the years, I have remembered her in my prayers and I have thanked my God for her!
I love my church family but I long to see it grow with new believers and new relationships that will stretch us and bring something so unique that we will wonder how we ever got along without them!