Sunday we turned our eyes as a church to Ephesians 4:1-16 to explore our next core value—humble community. Haeun has been studying at UW for several years and participating in a Hallows’ Missional Community since early 2016. Though she is preparing to return back to South Korea this week, after the gathering on Sunday she shared with a couple of our ministry team leaders that she wished she had heard this sermon earlier. We, of course, had to ask why, and here is what she had to say:
I felt God was being rather ironic once I heard this sermon. I was born in a Christian household and felt that I had a chance to meet with Jesus more personally since middle school. Overall, I felt I came from a very strong Christian background since most of the churches that I went throughout my life always emphasized training the youth to grow holistically in Christ. Especially my previous church that I was in before coming to the states was one of the most hardcore churches I've been to: with dense 2-hour long Sunday sermons, numerous retreats, tons of after church/weekly Bible seminars, on top of small group activities… [SIDE NOTE: see, friends, our sermons at The Hallows Church could always be longer ;)]
Before coming to the States, I definitely wanted to not be like "most common college students" that slowly fall away from their faith once they have to find their own church and maintain their faith away from their parents. In the early days of college, I felt I did a great job being very active, making sure to never miss service, go to small groups, as well as attend their retreats. I did feel that most of the fire to help me be involved in these activities came from my church back in Korea, since overtime, I became burnt out. Even though I know for sure I have a relationship with Christ, I felt that I definitely was trying to live off of my old false identity of this "mature christian for her age" based on my time growing up in a Christian community all my life.
I don't think this revelation completely hit me until I heard Pastor Andrew's sermon on Ephesians 4: 1-16. Before this, I was in this odd identity of "I used to be such an active and passionate Christian.... I know I can't live off of my glory days, but I am just not motivated." Because of my childhood growing up in church, I knew if I became more involved in church, especially in a smaller church, I knew my responsibilities would grow over time. Of course I could just do it out of pure obedience, but I knew that wasn’t the way either. I looked at people like Sara, Willie and Becky [friends in my Hallows’ Missional Community], and knew they were doing it out of love and strength from God. From here, I guess I gave into this twisted logic of waiting until I was filled .... that one day I would be fed enough with the word or Spirit so that I could then become someone like Sara and Willie and automatically run on the new fuel called "God's Love."
But the more I fell into this logic, I naturally isolated myself from the MC. ("I don't want to go because I am tired, and we all know you aren't supposed to force yourself to go to MC, you should want to go out of love... maybe next week you would want to go to MC.” ) Soon I became a bare minimalist Christian that only goes to church on Sundays and nothing else. I soon also began to have personal complaints about the Sunday sermons as well-- recalling back to my old Church in Korea, and saying things like "Pastor Andrew's Sermons are always great, but when will he also visit the Old Testament? Will he just stay just in the New Testament?"… <Sorry Pastor Andrew>
But basically, what Pastor Andrew said about Ephesians 4:1-16 is completely right. No matter how long or how well you were trained in church in the past, the moment you don't walk with the church, there is no way you can maintain being a healthy Christian on your own. I can proudly say that I experienced first hand the effects of slowly isolating yourself from church. Now looking back to my old church back in Korea, I think it made a lasting impression because I was so involved in all of their activities and always stayed so close to the members of the church. Of course I had to initially get out of my comfort zone but over time I felt I belonged there and began doing things because they were church family and not out of obligation.
I really regret I didn't involve myself sooner. If I did so, I don't think I would have had this issue of feeling awkward or distant from The Hallows. I could have actually made more friends in The Hallows and could have helped out more. I felt a lot of of opportunities were lost because I ended up isolating myself from the church. Then again, I do believe God has impeccable timing. Pastor Andrew's sermon never pierced me so sharply as on this Sunday. (Very convicted... felt naked even.) Despite me constantly isolating myself from the church, I am very thankful that the members of The Hallows Church were very patient with me and still loving even till the end.
I also believe that God used this part of my life to finally help me understand. He helped me realize my arrogance and taught me ways to really become a mature Christian. Kind of like the prodigal son had to lose his money and be betrayed by his shallow friends to know how amazing his life was back in his Father's place.
If you are afraid that you might invest too much in the church.... God will provide you the time, the people, the wisdom, the energy. You as a participant get to be involved in His amazing work. If you hide yourself away, God's Kingdom will still go on, but you will just miss out on a lot of the cool stuff. If I could have gone back in time, I wished I could have been part of the Communications Ministry Team and served the church. (I've always wanted to learn how they made such cool graphics on the handouts. I wished I could have also gone to MC more often as well.) If you are lazy anyway and hide away like I did, God will still pursue you and make you understand one way or another. But by then, that lesson might make you cringe a bit.
I also do want to thank the members of The Hallows Church as well as my MC for still loving me and being patient with me all this time. I am so glad God led me to The Hallows and despite my minimal participation, I did love being part of it.