Hi, my name is Jenn and I am a believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with Authenticity.
I have a confession to make. Even though I am almost to my 3rd anniversary with WBCC and even though I consider myself committed to Christ and the church… it wasn’t until July 1st that I joined a community group.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to be in community group. Back when it was more like a Bible study, it was easy to participate without having to really get deep with people. When our church made the shift to a structure with more focus on getting to know people, I started looking for an exit strategy and I slipped out a few months later.
Obviously I didn’t tell people why I wasn’t interested in being in community. It was easy to blame my new schedule, my other commitments inside and outside the church, talk about other bible studies I was doing instead … but none of that was the real issue. The truth is I was petrified of people.
Most people would never believe that about me. I’m naturally an extravert and it’s relatively easy for me to strike up a casual conversation. But I have some deep wounds that pull me toward keeping relationships surface level.
I was fully aware that not being in community was a breach of my membership contract, but I had convinced myself that my name gets an asterisk. Sure, I knew that community groups were the primary way information is disseminated but I just decided to blame the church that I didn’t really know what was going on. Absolutely, I was fully aware that it is in community that my sanctification would really happen… but that sounded painful and messy so I opted to keep the isolation going.
A few months ago God started working on my heart. He showed me, through Phil’s sermon, that I was treating God (and church) like an inconvenience rather than a lifeline. I began to learn that my fear of rejection was causing me to reject the people I really need in my life.
With a lot of fear and trepidation, I signed up to attend GroupLink the following Sunday. A week later, my heart pounding in my ears, it took every fiber of faith I could muster to pull away from the safety of folding drapes with my Teardown friends, walk down the hall into a room full of people I didn’t know, and politely small talk without bolting for the exit.
I silently prayed that none of the groups will fit in my schedule and I will be off the hook. “I tried that community thing; didn’t fit in my schedule.” I could see myself explaining to anyone who asked.
After some tasty BBQ, we listened to introductory comments from our pastors. Pastor Ben explained that WBCC groups try to form at once. This allows everyone to start as strangers and get to know each other at about the same time.
Then the two “Shepherds” introduced themselves. One seemed a lot like my dad and when he was talking, my heart calmed down a bit. After that we just had to write down our name and info and we could get out.
Three weeks later, the day finally arrived: I was going to a home I’d never visited to spend time with people I’d never met and there was no turning back.
Don’t get me wrong; I’d had 3 weeks to make up excuses… but none of them really held water. And behind it all was the gentle encouragement of God that I was created for Community. I couldn’t put into rational words what I was so afraid of or why I really didn’t want to attend. So I booted up my GPS and headed for the address provided.
How many people are coming to this? I wondered as I headed inside. As I warmed up the food I brought, I had some time to observe. What I realized is that everyone was felling pretty much like me. For the most part, no one there knew anyone else (other than their spouse) and all the talk was basic “what do you do for work?” style questions.
We prayed and served up food. As we ate, I met a few girls about my age. There weren’t many singles there but I didn’t feel isolated or excluded in any way.
One of the Elders, who happens to be in our group, talked about how the last 20 years have been riddled with “Highs” and “lows” but they were able to endure them because of being in a Community Group. It’s been a “family” to them and a safe harbor from the storms of life.
Then everyone went around and introduced themselves, but it was pretty casual. No one started pouring out their deep dark secrets or asking for mine. Time flew by and it was suddenly two hours later and we were wrapping up. We will be connecting again in two weeks.
As I headed out the door, I could almost hear God saying See? That wasn’t so bad.
The craziest thing happened the following Sunday: I knew a bunch of people! One of the girls in our group had her first time singing with the praise team. I had people to actually talk to before and after church. A few of the ladies in our group came up and said “hello” as if we were old friends.
That’s when it really clicked for me. All this time I have been hearing people talk about how WBCC “feels like home” and I just never really connected with their feelings. It wasn’t the benevolence ministry or the home visits from pastors that proves we really are a family. It’s dropping my guard and letting people know me. In that terrifying action, I am set free to know and being known. Now I can honestly say that this church is really starting to feel like home.
This post was originally written on over the first few days of July but not published until today. My goal in posing is to show were I started as I jump into the topic of Authenticity. So much has shifted in my thought process in just the last month but I have left it unedited. Enjoy!