But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
1 Corinthians 12:18
Sometimes it can be fun being the “new person,” but most of the time I dread it. There is nothing worse than going to a large gathering where you don’t know anybody and being surrounded by people who are engaged in conversations all around you but not with you. It would seem they have known each other forever and have things in common and then there’s you who nobody else knows. There are also those people who are kind and will try to pull you into a conversation but eventually they run out of the getting-to-know-you questions or a less sensitive person will pull them away into a conversation that inevitably excludes you, the new person. What I am trying to say is sometimes being the new person means you are on the outside. Sometimes being new means people expect less of you because you don’t know what everyone else knows. Sometimes, it means that you expect less of yourself because you feel everyone else knows more than you. Sometimes new is lonely. Then there are times the feeling of new can linger and then it becomes an unnecessary crutch.
Feeling new is very old for me when it comes to my church life. Without boring you with all of the details, I was saved when I was very young but going to church was sporadic. My mom worked most Sundays so we didn’t go that often. When we did go, I was too scared to join Sunday School assuming I would not be accepted socially among their already established group. Several times after church other kids would ask me if we had just joined the church or where we had moved from. The sad truth was I had been a member of that church since I was born but did not dare move out of my comfort zone which was located beside my parents with my little sister close by. Fast forward, I went to college and God showed me in a very dramatic way that I was a saved person with nothing to show for it in my lifestyle or in my heart. There was nothing about my life that hinted at the fact that I was a Christian. When I was too stubborn to do anything about it, God brought me to my knees one evening. I cried out to Him, He heard me, I heard Him, and I decided to make Him a real part of my life. So part of my growth led me to start attending a local mega church with 32,000 members. I felt more at home there but still would not integrate fully. I was too scared to join any of the what seemed like 100+ small groups or Sunday School classes they had. Again somehow I thought that I would not be accepted there and I didn’t want to be the new person hanging out in the back row. I did one time meet a very kind person who tried so hard to get me involved but, for some reason I continued to hold back. I did go to Sunday School a couple of times but then decided “Eh, not for me, they are all friends and I stick out as the new person.” So then I started going to an earlier worship service to avoid that person. To their credit, they called me several times but I was not having it. Fast forward again, I got engaged and started attending my then fiancé’s church. We were married less than six months later. I went from a 32,000-member church to a less than 100-member church…now I was new like I had never known new before!
Looking back people were kind and some really tried. But I was still determined not to get involved. While my husband grew closer in his walk with the Lord and in active fellowship at church, I hung back. Again, I had my own excuses for my behavior. They had all grown up together (so I assumed), they were much further along spiritually than I (so I assumed), they knew the Bible better than I (so I assumed), and finally I was sure many of them were judging me according to those standards or so I assumed. So then because I was subconsciously determined to stay new, God once again brought me to my knees. It wasn’t an instantaneous thing, it was slow and painful. [Now go back and read the verse at the top.] God has a plan for His church. Each person is there for a purpose. Standing on the outside and looking in, I was not fulfilling His purpose.
The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, “Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed so it shall stand”
Being new was no longer an excuse God was going to allow me to use. Again, the details will make this 40 pages long but what used to be a church of 100 strangers I was wary of is now my family. We bicker at times and get irritated with each other but much more than that we love – God first and then each other. Isn’t that the definition of family? When I miss a meeting at church and someone asks why I wasn’t there, my reaction is no longer, “Why are they always trying to call me out???” Now I get that they actually care – they missed me!
Looking back I can see that thinking I was new everywhere I went was Satan keeping me back. He didn’t want me to take my rightful place in the body of Christ so he fed me reasons (lies) not to go, not to relate and mostly not to love. By God’s grace I am passed that but I see others caught in this same holding pattern and it makes me sad. And what about you – are you in a similar situation? Maybe you are not new but have you found reasons to keep your heart protected from the very group of people God designed for you to be with? Watch out – many times He will uproot us from what feels comfortable because what is comfortable is not what is good according to His perfect will. Dear Child of God, if you cannot relate to the following verse ask God if there is healing in your heart that needs to occur before assuming your distance is everyone else’s fault. Remember, we as believers are meant to be ONE BODY…
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
1 Corinthians 12:26