Sister, do you feel like you are thriving in your local church?
Not just attending.
Not merely participating.
But truly thriving.
Newborn babies that drink their milk, and receive love, care, and attention to grow and develop in healthy ways, meeting their developmental milestones and growth markers. However, when these needs aren’t met, physical growth slows, or stops, and serious health concerns arise. If their expected weight gain isn’t being met, these babies can be diagnosed with ‘failure to thrive,’ a condition that can result from illness, emotional deprivation or inadequate nutrition. The expected growth is held back, and serious physical symptoms begin.
Consider the symptoms we experience when our spiritual growth is stagnant, when we are disconnected from the Lord and his people. During the pandemic we’ve seen massive increases in fear, anxiety and anger, resulting from isolation, and information overload. We’re learning how much we need each other and our church community.
To thrive means to grow and develop well or vigorously. In this booklet, “How Can Women Thrive in the Local Church?” Keri Folmar encourages us to “enjoy the fullness of God’s grace available for you in the gospel and experience this joy in meaningful, life-giving relationships with the people of God in a local church.”
She provides eight essential elements that contribute to our thriving in the church that propel us toward intentional growth:
You must be alive in Christ. If we are attached to Jesus the vine, we are attached to the church.
Join a local church. Becoming a committed member to the community.
Prioritize the weekly gathering. Placing a high priority on worshiping together in
Sit more than you serve. While this is likely more of a struggle before the pandemic, as women we can get caught up in serving, sometimes failing to sit in the service. Loving God’s people is particularly important and are also a part of thriving, yet we need to be aware of how much time we spend acts of service in contrast to the time we spend hearing the teaching of the Word.
Embrace the church as a family and be a mother, and a sister. Develop intentional relationships with other women, are we treating the church as a club we frequent on the weekends, or as a family?
Don’t let conflict and bitterness fester. The bride of Christ is not a collection of perfect, righteous people. There are hurts, offenses and disagreements that occur. The beauty of the bride is never found in her perfection, but in her forgiveness. We are a picture of the gospel as we confess our sins to each other and seek out reconciliation.
Look for needs and meet them. This requires us to pay attention to those around us with prayerful, searching eyes.
Bring the church home. Enjoy sharing the gift of hospitality, to continue getting to know the people you worship with. During the pandemic, this is obviously not going to happen a lot, but perhaps there are ways to become creative in sharing this gift.
“We simply can’t thrive spiritually apart from the church”
While in this season of lockdowns, social distancing and restrictions, there are aspects of our community life that are hindered. Less gathering means less serving. Invitations to enjoy each others’ hospitality are on hold, for now. It’s not ideal. It’s also not in our control.
With a deep breath, even in our present circumstances, we can take an honest look at our involvement within our local church and discover areas we can become creative and intentional in our participation and relationships. There are good examples of these connections, as women have continued to reach out, some by building small group meetings on Zoom, through group messaging for encouragement, or by checking in with individuals for prayer requests.
While living relationships only through screens can't substitute face-to-face, it can help us get through these times, establishing prayerful connections and Word-filled inspirations.
As life continues to shift around us, may we become women who thrive in our local churches, for the glory of God and the good of others.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the Crossway Blog Review Program. A big thanks to the publisher for the copy and the opportunity to post an honest review.