“Aloneness can lead to loneliness. God’s preventative for loneliness is intimacy – meaningful, open, sharing relationships with one another. In Christ we have the capacity for the fulfilling sense of belonging which comes from intimate fellowship with God and with other believers.” – Neil T. Anderson.
At some level or another, we all want to “belong” to something bigger than ourselves. We crave relationships and feeling connected in some significant way to other people. In other words, other people matter. So much, in fact, that our desire to find connectedness and belonging impacts just about everything we do, whether we are believers or non-believers.
But in many cases, we walk a fine line between fitting in and belonging. Fitting in can require you to twist yourself into a pretzel in order to be accepted. Belonging is simply being accepted as who you are. Fitting in happens when we force ourselves into a mold in order to be accepted. We “fit in” to what a group considers cool. Belonging on the other hand happens when we are ourselves and find acceptance and community despite not being like everyone else. We as a church want to create a culture of belonging rather than a culture of fitting in.
To create a culture of belonging we need to stop seeing church or ministry as a group of friends hanging out. Instead, we need to see church and ministry as a group of Jesus followers called to minister to the needs of others. When we see ourselves as a group of friends hanging out we naturally want to keep it that way. The results can run the spectrum: from forming a clique on the mild end to rejecting people because they don’t fit in at the worst end. When we see ourselves as Jesus followers called to minister we no longer enter the church space for ourselves but for others. The result is we no longer worry about people being different or seemingly mismatched because we see everyone as a person whose spiritual development has been entrusted to us. Maya Angelou said, “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.”
This week, take a moment and consider whether you may be contributing to a “fitting in culture.” Do you expect others to be like you? Do you avoid those who are different from you? Do you unintentionally create a box for people to “fit into” or else they won’t be accepted? How would you feel if the tables were turned?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, ask God to use you in creating a sense of belonging in the church. Ask God to help you be the type of person others can be around and accept them despite their opinions, imperfections, or differences. Ask God to see them, not as outsiders, but as people loved by God who we serve as best we can. This does not mean we will have a deep connection with everyone and anyone. It just means you will help create the kind of environment in which everyone can have a sense of belonging.
God’s desire has always been for the church to be a respite of hope, love, and belonging. From His perspective, whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, or whatever you’ve done, you belong and you are welcome.
- If God put in us the need to belong, the church should be the safest place on earth to do that. What can we do as individuals to create a sense of belonging?
- Who can we invite to church that clearly has a need to belong?