You probably wouldn’t guess, but I have always thought I was a bit of an outcast. Feeling alone in a crowded room is a feeling I am all too familiar with. Despite growing up in a pretty loving and connected family, with friends at school and in the neighborhood, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I just didn’t fit. Unfortunately, some of those outcast feelings were supported by interactions with the church. In fact, there was a period of time where I used them as fuel to dislike and avoid church altogether.
After I found Christ in college though, I began to develop a strange desire to find a place amongst God’s people. The problem was I just kept running into the same problem: I never really felt comfortable; I never thought I fit. Yet passages like Galatians 3:28 spoke to my soul a reality where I really did fit. I longed for that feeling of acceptance and oneness with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Fast-forward to the first years my wife Crystal and I spent at New Hope. I couldn’t help but notice the same outcast feeling starting to creep in. I remember it specifically one night as Crystal and I drove home from LIFE Group. We talked and prayed a lot over the week following and arrived at the conclusion that to have a great community, one that bridges cultural gaps, and leaves people feeling known, loved, and valued, we needed to first be that community. This is where my true desire to serve the church was born.
Since that time, I have pressed into New Hope. I’ve pressed into the idea that it is a broken place, full of broken people, but broken people that all belong to the same family. As I reflect on my journey to becoming an elder, I realize that for a very long time God has been molding and shaping me to have a passion for His church. I now have a much more clear vision for what the church can be. For so long, I saw the church as this shiny beacon of what people were supposed be like: put together, always happy, never any problems…no wonder I, and dare I say, we, feel like outcasts. Rather, I think church can be a place where people can be like the disciples: messy, selfish, a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but sold-out committed to following Jesus.
It is my prayer, that as an elder of New Hope, I can be used by God to help New Hope thrive and be a place where we all feel a little more free to be exactly who we are right now, without shame, as we journey toward who God made us to be.