This post is part of a 11 week blog series that highlights the many ways we worship the triune God.
“I guess you could say that I became a Christian because of community.”
It was nearly a year after Shelley and her husband had moved to Los Angeles and she still didn’t have a close friend. One day a woman came to the cafe she was working at and asked if she’d like to go see a movie. Over time they became a good friends and she eventually explained grace and the gospel. “Her relationship with Jesus was so vibrant and I wanted that,” Shelley explains, “I found out later that God had prompted her to start a friendship with me.”
As we have seen throughout this blog series, expressing our worship to God can take so many different forms. Our money; time; vocation; the way we experience nature; our creative expressions in the arts—all of these things can be poured out as an offering of praise to God. But as we can see from Shelley’s story, being a part of Christian community can be a beautiful expression of love and adoration to God as well.
“If you’d asked me before this series, I probably wouldn’t have thought of community as the way I express worship to God. I probably would have said singing,” she laughs, “but the more I thought about it the more I realized that being in community has deepened my relationship with Christ.”
In John 21, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time when Peter responds, “Lord you know that I love you”, Jesus tells him to feed His sheep. When we’re in Christian community we can use the gifts that God has given us to bless those around us—to feed His sheep. When we do that, it’s a worshipful act because we’re pouring out our love for Christ. “It’s not necessarily that I’m conscious of the fact that I’m worshipping when I’m trying to connect with my brothers and sisters in Christ, but it flows out of what Jesus has done for me. I love them because He loves me.“
Shelley and her husband Marc moved to North Vancouver and started attending Westside about five years ago. They lead a community group at the North Shore campus, and her whole face lights up when she talks about it. “Our community group is amazing!” she says, but she’s quick to add, “but that’s not our doing, it’s all God. As people were coming into the group, we all felt so connected—like family—and we treated each other that way. One of the guys in our group has bookshelves full of Christian books and he’s so happy to lend them out to anyone. We’ll have a pool party and everyone will come and all the kids will be playing together in the pool. At Thanksgiving, we had a huge table full of people over for turkey dinner. It was a new tradition for us to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving!”
Anyone can have friends or build a community. The difference is that in Christian community, we are part of a family centred around God. Relationships can go deeper when they are built on a foundation of faith. It means we can give more of our love, time, grace and compassion to others because we’ve received it from our heavenly Father. Shelley and Marc have experienced such deep friendships in their community at Westside:
“Because Marc and I don’t have family here, and because our families aren’t christians, our church community has stepped up to fill in the gaps. We’ve developed such a strong relationship with another couple in the group that we’ve been able to ask them to be our kids’ guardians if anything were to happen to us.”
One of the most beautiful things about worshipping God is that when we give ourselves to Him, through our time or talent or affections, He always gives more of Himself back to us. Through worship we can be strengthened, encouraged and comforted. What an incredible gift from our Father that we can receive these things in community with our brothers and sisters. A few days after we sat down to talk about worship and community, Shelley sent me this text message:
“I have just been spending time with a lot of my sisters from Westside and their kids today and have realized that I find myself drawing closer to Jesus, thinking about how kind and amazing He is. As I look around I’m so thankful for the community He has placed us in. I think of how wonderful His plans are and how He has drawn all of us from all over the world and knit us together with such love. He is so amazing! I often find myself thinking about this when I hang out with them.”
Sarah Miller is a writer, musician, introvert and sports fan. She plays piano and sings on the worship team, and has been attending Westside since the (almost) beginning. She loves music, the Oilers, popcorn, Jeopardy and the BBC. Follow her on twitter/instagram @heysarahmiller if you like vacation photos and occasionally witty observations about life, sports and pop culture.