Twenty years ago, I sat in a “Sociology of Religion” class right off of George Square at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
As we discussed the evolution of religion over the years, one thing stuck out and remained with me above all else. One of the biggest problems facing Christianity at the time was a new category of Christians who described themselves as “Believing without Belonging.”
That was me.
I knew John 3:16. ✅
I had purchased a worship CD and memorized the words of all the popular songs of the time, so I wouldn’t look out of place in the off chance someone invited me to church with them. ✅
I owned a Bible and could recite the books in order. ✅
I prayed before mealtime … at home only. ✅
I believed God existed, but I didn’t belong to a church. And, I, like many others I knew, was okay with that. 🙊
What I wouldn’t realize for two more decades is that saying “I believe without belonging” is the same as saying, “I have knowledge but I don’t know.”
While I claimed to know who God was and what that meant for my life, spiritually, I was truly lost.
My circle of friends reflected my beliefs. I knew a few people who went to church. If you asked me how many times they invited me to join them, I couldn’t recall.
Like all people, I battled with the sins of the world and the brokenness that comes with that.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to use the moral compass 🧭 of the Bible and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to help me overcome those things. Most of the time my Bible sat dusty on a shelf, rarely opened.
While people would pray for my healing when I was physically sick or emotionally hurting from the loss of a loved one, I now wonder how many prayed for my spiritual health.
In Romans 10:1, Paul writes, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”
Paul understood the Jews theoretically knew who God was, but they didn’t understand his righteousness.
As I studied this verse this morning, I reflected on my friend Heather.
About three years ago, we met through a church basketball league our children both played together on weekly. One afternoon, she brought her son to my daughter’s birthday party. At the end of the party, we stood on my porch, and Heather shared her testimony with me. She invited me to join her if I didn’t have a church home at Trinity Baptist Church.
I didn’t go. I didn’t think I needed to. I believed in God. I didn’t need to belong to a church.
As I studied Romans 10:1 this morning, I read this commentary: “Religious people miss salvation because they think that their good works will satisfy God’s demand for righteousness, so they don’t trust in Christ for righteousness.”
Paul went on to write in Romans 10:2, “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”
I quickly replayed the last 13 months and the growth I have made since taking Heather up on her offer (almost two years later) to join her at her church.
I now realize that I had a zeal for God, but I didn’t have the knowledge needed to understand who He was.
The more I have had an opportunity to get to know Heather, the more I think she was probably the one friend in my life who regularly prayed for my spiritual growth … even if not directly for me. She is the type of person who goes to God for everything. An inspiring woman, who despite her own battles, never loses faith in Him. Because she knows Him.
Believing without belonging is a scary place to be because you get stuck in believing without accountability partners to ensure you really know the truth. It surrounds you with friends who will give you well meaning advice, but not advice based off of Biblical principles. That just takes you down a path of being well-meaningly more lost! Without truly knowing the truth, it is impossible to help guide others to become more Christlike.
For me, the best part about belonging to our church has been truly learning how to study the Bible, apply the principles to my life, and grow in a way that has healed my spirit. I needed to be surrounded by a group of people weekly (sometimes more than that) who helped me grow … and who, like Paul, prayed for the knowledge of others to come to know Christ.
So this morning, after really contemplating Romans 10:1-2, I started making a list of the lost people in my family, my work circle, and my friend circle and begin to pray for their salvation. My prayer right now is those who believe in Christ without belonging to a church home would find a place like our family found at Trinity to belong and that their spiritual health would be restored the way mine has over the last year. I also pray for those in the church who have a true passion for Christ but who also, like me, are still growing in the knowledge of what that means.
If you’re looking for somewhere to belong, let me tell you, I’d love for you to join us at Trinity. Not because we would love for the building to have more people in it … but because of the peace I know you will find overtime by growing together in Christ with an amazing church family.