Have you ever dreamed of a masquerade ball?
You know, the kind with magnificent chandeliers, a gilded hall, billowing ball gowns, crisp tuxes and mysterious masks. Oh the masks — feathered, jeweled and glittery. Delicate but bold. Exotic yet everywhere.
In my mind’s eye it’s a lovely scene and the band is exceptionally smooth and talented. The glitz and the glamour would be fun for an evening but I imagine eventually it might be a bit of a bummer to dance through the night side by side with dazzling strangers with no real idea who each other is. Masks hide pain, joy and expression — all the emotions and experiences that make us uniquely who we are. Somehow we wouldn’t bond over our shared delightful experience in the way people normally do because we wouldn’t know who we were sharing the experience with.
We can do this in the church too — show up and worship alongside other believers dressed in Sunday best wearing smiles and never get to know them. Never show them who we are. Never see Christ or His goodness as fully because we can’t see the ways He’s granting blessings and strength in fellow believers’ lives.
There are lots of reasons why this happens but while all may be backed by legitimate feelings, none offer sufficient justification to keep our masks on or not to show up to the ball (community) in the first place. God designed us for community and when we step out into it we see He designed community to walk alongside us, encourage us and catalyze our faith growth — even and especially in spite of our fears. Here are some examples:
I WON’T FIT IN. My inner monologue screamed this inside my head the night I drove to my first home group meeting. It yelled it again on the way home. I was sure my background was different, my hobbies and friends were different, and my doubts and spiritual maturity were different. In retrospect, being exactly the same as everyone else would have been both insanely boring and terribly unfortunate. I would have missed learning to be more sensitive and compassionate towards stories different than my own. I would have missed learning from those further along in their spiritual walk and missed discipling newer believers. And I would have missed out on three of my best friends.
PEOPLE WILL SEE ME. The most surface level interpretation of this statement might be true for you, or the truth might poke deeper. You might fear vulnerability — people seeing your flaws, your needs, everything you don’t know. If others see these things will they think differently or less of you? If this is your reason, here’s what you must remember: Jesus never piles you with shame and He doesn’t want you counting reasons to self-induce it. He instructed His people over and over again to gently love and build up one another because He knows well we each carry flaws, needs and things we don’t know.
I DON’T NEED PEOPLE. Oh boy have I used this one. I didn’t really believe that, but it was easier to tell myself that than accept the real truth: I was scared to let others in and scared to need people because that meant people could hurt me or let me down. Maybe also a little scared I just wouldn’t click with anyone. The truth is if I trust that God’s design for me and for biblical community are good then I must follow His lead and trust that He will bless my obedience.
CHRISTIANS ARE ALL HYPOCRITES. I’ll raise my hand for this one too. I was once badly burned by church and for years wanted nothing to do with it. I thought I’d take Christ but not Christians.
This didn’t work well for me and eventually I came back around, defensive and guarded as one can be. I eventually learned two important lessons. First, I learned that people who go to church and church people are not inherently the same (one is checking a box on a religion should-do list by showing up on Sunday — the other is living and loving as Christ lived and loved all week long). Second, I learned that all Christians are imperfect — just as I am — but healthy Christians acknowledge that while striving to become more and more like Christ.
I WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH MY SIN. True, this dealing with sin and shortcomings is not fun. However, if your heart is serious about maturing in Christ — becoming more and more like Him each day — you want to show up for this. You want voices you trust lovingly calling you out on harbored bitterness, lack of discipline, actions that don’t line up with the heart of God’s Word, etc. You want accountability for growing in grace and truth.
IT’LL BE HARD. Moment of honesty? This is probably true. Everyone else in the group or class may already know each other and you may not know anyone. It will probably change your schedule and might require uncharacteristic boldness. It will definitely involve patience. Soul-filling, comfortable community doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen when you keep showing up.
So where will you show up this fall to build community? Here are just a few of the many options at Christ Chapel:
Show up to a Home Group. With Christ Chapel’s fall series right around the corner, there’s never been a more perfect time to join a home group! And there’s something special about meeting in homes. It’s personal and more cozy.
Show up to the Men’s or Women’s Bible Study. In addition to setting you up with a table of believers spanning the decades, our Men’s and Women’s Bible studies do a fantastic job of teaching you how to study the Bible yourself and get you in the Word throughout each week.
Show up to a Moms’ Group. Someone else to love and pray for your kids, laugh and cry with you and built in pals for your littles or grand-littles? Yes, yes and yes please say all the mamas!
Show up to a Soul Care Class. Have you checked out these offerings lately? There is a class for whatever struggle you may be wrestling — anxiety, fear, lust, food, grief, defeat, loneliness, etc. — and classes to support growth — of marriages, recovery from addiction, forgiveness, etc.
Show up to coffee or a meal. One of my very best friends today asked if I wanted to meet for dinner sometime the second time I ever met her (at home group). We knew virtually nothing about the other and had no mutual friends. It ended up that we had the same favorite restaurant, and after meeting there, we found out we had the same go-to order. That night we said “Really? Me too!” over and over and have regularly said it ever since — about silly things and about the very hard. I stood at the front of the little white chapel for her wedding a couple years ago and last week I held her sweet baby boy in her living room. I can’t imagine her not being a rock in my life — and it all began because she took a risk in inviting me to dinner and I took the risk of saying “yes.”
In all of this, what I hope you don’t hear is an exceptional story. It is a blessed story to be sure, but not the exception to the norm. Every risk doesn’t hit the jackpot — I’ve had coffee and lunches that didn’t go anywhere besides to good coffee and lunch — but you can’t put yourself out there in healthy biblical community without making good friends.
Friends that see you, flaws included, and love you anyway. Friends that show up to hug you and grieve as quickly as they show up to dance and celebrate. Friends that build you up and cheer you on. Friends that lovingly call you out when you need it. Friends that fill your weekends and plan for your birthday and your kids’ birthdays. Friends whose photos end up on your mantle and fridge because really, they’re more like family. And they are family. That’s the most beautiful part — we are all family because we are beloved Sons and Daughters of the same King. Let’s show up to life together — masks off.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
Join a home group!
The best way to experience our fall series, Wake Up!, is in a home group. You won’t regret spending time with others, figuring out how the truth we talk about on Sundays changes your daily life — you just won’t! Groups meet all over Fort Worth and Parker County. Find one now with this link below.
Join us on Sunday for the start of our fall series!
Whatever your week was like, there’s a place for you at Christ Chapel. Gather with us this Sunday for community, worship and the start of our fall study, Wake Up! The series is full of practical truth on God’s love, marriage, money, justice in the world and more. To see what a Sunday is like at Christ Chapel, click here.
Fort Worth Campus: 9:15 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
West Campus: 9:30 and 11 a.m.