For most of my life, I ran like a duck. I’m not kidding at all.
I had this strange muscle in my leg that was extraordinarily tight and caused one of my legs to turn inward, so when I ran, my form was terrible and it resembled a duck waddle. My close family and friends remember these days well, but please don’t ask them for any videos!
It was pretty hilarious when I tried to run, but as I got older, I decided I wanted to do something about this awkward part of myself.
So I joined a gym. I’ve never been an athletic person, but I knew I needed to fix this problem. Within the first three minutes of my one-on-one session with a trainer, she observed my very obvious issue, and started an exercise plan for me to correct it.
I’m not very coordinated and certainly not athletic, so walking into a gym was pretty out of place for me. But with my membership, I belonged there. I didn’t know anyone or how to use any of those machines, but I had a card on my keyring that said I had a place there. I kept going, several times a week, and met with my trainer. I learned people’s names. People started to wave at me when I walked in, and even began to call me by name. I learned to use those scary machines, one by one. I learned the difference between a squat and a plank, an elliptical and a treadmill. I went to a few classes and made friends.
It took quite some time, a lot of sweat, and many sore muscles, but you know what? I don’t run like a duck anymore. My legs are straight and I can run with solid form and alignment.
I loved that gym membership, and it changed my physical attributes, but it wasn’t the center of my life. I felt better and stronger and lost a few inches and pounds, but it didn’t change my heart.
But there is a membership that has changed my entire life for eternity — my church membership at Grace.
I’ll never forget the Sunday morning at the Orlando campus when Pastor Mike’s words hit me like a ton of bricks. Never before in my four decades of listening to sermons have I been so impacted by words: The church is the center of the Christian’s life because Christ is the center of the Church. The church is God’s way to bring His Kingdom to earth. To make the church the center of your life is to experience a piece of heaven on earth.
It was at that moment that our family made a decision to jump in with both feet at Grace. We knew this was home. We knew this was where we wanted to take next steps, to grow deeply, to invest well, and to see our children grow in the faith, too.
Since that sermon in 2017, we’ve taken several big and small steps toward making the church the center of our life. We’ve still got a ways to go, but here are a few practical things to help you in your journey to do the same. It’s not about doing or not doing these things, and certainly never about checking boxes, but these are some areas of life in which to consider making the church a priority. These steps, when thoughtfully completed with a humble and God-centered heart, will lead to eternal transformation.
Finances: Our giving should first be to the ministry of the church. Giving to Grace is an act of worship, and it is a joyful thing to watch God supply Grace’s needs through the giving of her members. Is it wrong to give to other like-minded ministries? Absolutely not! But not at the expense of giving to the local church.
Bible Studies: Look first at the Bible studies and classes Grace is offering before considering other locally led, community-based Bible studies. Again, there’s nothing wrong with those at all, but intentionally attending small group studies at the local church will benefit you greatly in growing in genuine family with others at Grace.
Friendships: Seek to develop relationships within the local church. Having trouble finding friends? Join a Grace Community or a Bible study or class. Our closest friends have been found there!
Gifts and Skills: How can you serve the church? How can you use your God-given gifts, skills, and abilities to help with church needs, serve others, and invest in the eternal through Grace?
Kids and Family: If you have children, help them to develop deep, meaningful relationships at Grace, both with kids and adults. Get to know other families with children the same ages, graceKIDS! and GraceStudents teachers, and others invested in your children’s lives.
Social Media: Let your primary focus for social media be to connect with friends — what social media was originally designed for us to do! This is even more important during this time of quarantine and isolation. Make your Grace family at the top of your news feed and check on them regularly. Use social media to show those far from God what a strong church family you have. Allow God to speak through you on social media as you connect with your Grace family, and maybe get to know a few new people at Grace, too!
Work Schedule: How can you adjust your work schedule to be able to attend Grace regularly when we re-open? Can you switch shifts with someone so you’ll be able to commit to a class or Bible study? Are you able to make small changes at work so that the church can be the center of your life?
Your Home: When appropriate and safe, how can you open your home to your Grace family? Can you host a Grace Community? What about a group of fourteen middle school boys for a GraceStudents retreat? Crazy, I know. But our family did it last November, and while I’m still finding Nerf bullets in crevices behind my couch, it was one of the highlights of our year.
Making church the center of your life will change your life. Just like my duck-running days were transformed by a gym membership, prioritizing the church will change you forevermore.
During this season of pandemic, being forced to worship apart has made me long for heaven even more. A day when we won’t have to distance, for there will be no sickness. A day when we won’t have to wonder when things will shut down again, for worship will never end. A day when worry will not exist, fear will be obsolete, and anxiety will cease. A day when the body of Christ will be fully united in perfection for all of eternity.
We have an opportunity to experience a part of heaven here on earth by making the church the center of our life. When we do so, even through a pandemic and quarantine, we choose to prioritize the body of Christ, and we are a part of bringing Christ’s Kingdom to earth.