I want you to imagine for a moment that you are a regular gym attendee. You’ve been attending the same gym for years now. You own all the right activewear, you know how to use the equipment and you attend classes with the same gym buddies. The gym is a comfortable place for you to get uncomfortable—for you to sweat it out and meet your fitness goals.
And then one day someone new comes along.
They aren’t wearing Nikes, they haven’t a clue how to use the equipment, they’re not nearly as toned as you are and they don’t know anyone there. But they turned up for the same reason you did—fitness. And so rather than ignore them, you and your gym buddies befriend them. You show them how to use the equipment and give them tips on how to improve their fitness.
We all know that the gym can benefit everybody, regardless of their fitness level. It is for the person who hasn’t missed “leg day” in longer than two years, just as much as it is for the person who is visiting for the first time. It is as much for the person who can lift twice their own body weight as it is for the person who feels they are carrying a little too much weight. The gym serves two purposes: to help people become fit, and to help people maintain and build their fitness.
In the same way, our church serves two purposes: to help bring people to God and to help people grow in their relationship with God.
But, just as the gym can be overwhelming for first-timers, so too can our church. As regulars, we need to be welcoming. We need to show people that church is just as much for us, the regulars, as it is for them, the newcomers. And just like gym buddies can keep you accountable towards your fitness goals, the church community can help keep you accountable in your walk with God.
Our path as Christians is not easy: we will face trials and tribulations, and our faith will be challenged. And while it is possible to maintain faith without the support of the church, we risk having no-one around to pick us up and help us back onto the right path when we fall.
And so, if you do regularly attend church, keep an eye out for those among you who are new; those who seem intimidated, isolated or overwhelmed. Don’t wait for someone else to make them feel welcome. Allow God’s light to shine through you.
Ashley Stanton is Media and Communications coordinator for ADRA Australia.