A few months ago, Ryan and I started attending services at a local church, newlife. Our friends, Matt and Jessica (Ryan works with Matt) have been going to services at newlife for awhile, and invited us to join and see what it was all about. After our first service there, we were hooked and knew that it would be a place we wanted to go regularly.
Ryan was raised going to church, and I was not. At least not after first grade. Once competitive sports got involved in my family's schedule, our Sundays were occupied with road trips, pre-game warm ups and long days of softball and soccer. Ryan and I had discussed and said that once we had kids, we wanted to join a church, and raise our kids to know that church is important, and a staple in our family values. When Matt and Jessica invited us along to newlife, I guess we figured there was no reason not to take the leap now.
My experience with church is pretty lacking, and the experiences I have had have not been super special. When I was young and we went to a local baptist church, I was involved in the weekly kid/youth program, Awana. As an Awana (what the hell is an Awana, by the way?) you were supposed to learn and memorize bible verses, and recite them to your Awana leader to earn stickers for your book and buttons/patches for your vest. Awesome. What little kid doesn't want a wicked blue Awana vest?
I sure did.
That was until one glorious Wednesday evening that my truly horrible Awana leader scolded me for not knowing my verses and badgered me into tears. I think this sparked the onset of my anxiety issues.
In church settings, I have always felt very uncomfortable, awkward (especially when singing hymnals), and like I was being judged the entire time. It always felt like the pastor (or whoever) was bringing down the hammer and telling me what I need to do to be considered a good person, the rules I need to follow, and blah, blah, blah. I always left and felt bad about myself, instead of good or "uplifted."
Enter newlife. Like I said, as soon as we left our first service, Ryan and I felt "uplifted" and included. The whole environment is very relaxed and welcoming. The first fifteen minutes of the services are dedicated to worship and a live band plays, everyone sings along. Each service has a topic and passages are read from the Bible. The best thing about the services are that passages and the sermon are put into context that can be related to everyone and their everyday experiences. For me, this makes the services much more enjoyable, and I feel that we can actually get something out of it... Other than thinking, "Huh?"
Here are some examples of sermons over the past few weeks and how newlife has incorporated big ideas into attainable actions...
- What is leadership? It is humble, it ignites passion and evokes genuine enthusiasm, is more than words, stays focused on the mission, makes short-term sacrifices for long-term gain
Humility: Is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less
- What do you do in tough moments? Walk away or walk in?
- Focus on what is eternal, and not temporary
- Remember love wins
- Remember greater things are coming
- How do you respond to failure? Runaway, resent, rebel, rebound or repent?
- Handle epic failure by stepping forward, finding yourself, protect the people you love, take a punch (sometimes), and stay focused on the bigger picture
and finally, Suffering
- What to remember in suffering: even the innocent suffer, there are steps in suffering that only you can take, you are not the only one suffering, and your suffering will not last forever
- Whining versus winning
- Remember where you are now is not where you will end up
newlife has definitely given Ryan and I a sense of belonging and pride. My attitude has totally changed about church and God and all things associated... Well, most things, anyway :) I'm still scared of the Awana lady.