Growing up to Filipino Catholic parents, I (Sal) was raised to attend Sunday mass very faithfullly. No matter how late we were, we made it to mass. I remember my family would get very uptight many Sunday mornings because one of us woke-up late and we had to wait for one another. It was embarassing to come late, so we would get on each other’s backs for making the whole family late. When we couldn’t make it to mass on Sundays, we would make it up by going on Saturday evenings.
As I grew in a personal relationship with God, during my critical big transition of my life of my first year of college, I was hungry for “spiritual food”. I began attending other churches with more of an emphasis on the Bible, like my current local church-Morris Community Church.
Before making MCC my home church at Morris during my college years, I took turns at a couple of other churches. I got “saved” (dedicated my life to Christ) in the Spring of 1996 at the local Assembly of God (now known as Hossana Worship Center) in Morris, MN. I took turns there with the Morris Evangelical Free Church and MCC. I liked the different styles of worship and the sermons between the three.
Finding a “Home” Church
Then one Sunday service at MCC, the pastor (Neil T.) back then, shared the importance of finding a “home” based local church to attend regularly on Sundays. He shared how a “home” church can give you more of a solid foundation in your growth. For example, several days ago (8/29/03) I got a picture of a house plant. It would be very hard if a house plant keeps changing to another pot everytime; accept when it’s grown its foundation! The plant would start being confused and the roots may be damaged due it’s frequent transition. Then I got another similar parable-I’ve met many people who had/have military parents. They have had to move one place to another place due to their parents’ military transition (one base to another part of the country or world), which make it somewhat hard for them with the change of school, friends, and environmental surroundings. When Neil shared the need of getting “plugged into a local/home church” that Sunday (date unknown), I started to ask God what church should I get plugged into. I somehow decided to make MCC my home church in Morris!
After making MCC my home church since my sophomore-junior (97’-98’?) year at UMM, I’ve grown to a more solid foundation here that has helped me in my personal growing relationship with God. It took me years to get to know the church body-families of MCC. I’ve visited their homes through:homegroups, graduation open house parties, moving, meals, and other fellowship activities that has made me feel like a part of the “MCC family”. During my long college years-especially the long winter months of this rural college town; being away from your “biological” family can be very lonesome! MCC made me feel welcome and they served as a “temporary-adopted” family to feel like home away from “home”. One of the best parts of attending MCC during college for me were the “homey” family environmental surroundings:
Adults: Having older adults/parents giving you some “parenting” advice was important to me as I was not around my “real” parents to get through the college years. One of the best traits of MCC was their discipling/mentoring of college students. I met with Neil, pastor back then, once a week during some years of college. He not only provided spiritual growth through reading the Bible, but also that parent-like guidance through life-skills advice or words of wisdom in every day life challenges-situations-circumstances.
Teenagers: There were teenagers that shared on Sundays’ service- “open mike times” . Their teen life challenges reminds college students that they aren’t the only one going through school-academic trials in life. Rubbing shoulders with them at MCC gave me a “temporary-adopted” younger brother or sister. Going to their open house graduation parties made me feel like being part of their family. I would share my teenage experience with them at times to encourage them during their “teen” years. I got involved in more reaching out to the youth through events, like ”See You At the Party” , which made me feel I can make a contribution in this local “mission field”. Currently, I have a job working with an Attention Deficit Disorder teenager that goes to a nearby high school. I serve as a mentor, which I’ve learned the importance of this needed tool by the church through being mentored by Neil when I was as a college student. I feel like another older brother as I’ve now got to know him for over 2 years as of today!
Children: I used to baby-sit my neighbors’ kids when I grew up in my now parents’ townhouse in St. Paul. Going to UMM, I was surrounded by college peers the same age the whole time especially after living in the on-campus residential halls for all 4 years! I liked attending MCC on Sundays because it was a chance during the week to be surrounded by people of different ages-especially kids. It was a time to live and remind oneself the Bible taught verse of ….
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Children 18:3-4
Elderly: I was and still able to interact with kids of MCC when I voluntarily participate with children’s church (during Sunday services), baby-sit/watch them during homegroup, or many other social fellowship functions. I’ve grown to know more of the MCC church family’s children by name and interest since I’ve adopted them as my local-home church.
Sadly to say, we don’t have much of an elderly presence at MCC due to the high-voltage worship services-especially when Children 18:3 are part of the worship team on Sundays. After college, I didn’t really get involved with “mingling” with the local elderly population until volunteering at the Salvation Army or through the teenager with ADD that volunteers helping with computer work at the Morris Senior Center (they are always looking for volunteers!)
Taste & See that the Lord is Good
I do have a home church in St. Paul whenever I visit my family-Woodland Hills Church-that I attend whenever I get the chance I’m there. It took me awhile, like MCC, to make this my “home-church”. I attended several churches around the Twin Cities-preferibly as close to my neighborhood as possible-as I was looking for one that my family would get out of it too! Now, whenever I’m in the cities, my mom would attend with me whenever I’m visiting. Then I would at times go to her home church-Assumption Catholic Church in downtown St. Paul with the rest of the family (whoever is awake or around the house). I’ve grown to attend church on Sundays faithfully due to my awesome family upbringing whenever I get the chance.
When I started to have an interest in pursuing a relationship with God back in my freshmen year, I was seeking God in all sorts of places (bible studies, concerts, conferences, worship/unity gatherings, etc….more) besides checking out Sunday only services. I went to all sorts of fellowship events, which I still do today to “taste and see that the Lord is good” to get a bigger perspective of what God is doing all-around. I look up for events from all sorts of media (e.g. radio, newspaper, magazines, internet, etc…). Please feel free to contact me for personal reccomended resources locally, state wide, or national that I look at.
Can’t Attend Church?
I have to be honest, whenever I cannot make it to Sunday services (like I did this past weekend when I took the teenager with ADD and his brother with me to the Minnesota State Fair on Sunday, August 31st 2003); I would make it up by having my praise & worship with my awesome God-via technology (radio, cd music, or t.v.). I highly don’t recommend this all the time, but only whenever you really…really…can’t attend church by all means! I would make my daily devotional time in the Word on these untypical Sundays longer as I would meditate on a “personal sermon” by God!
*Fellowship Tip for Local UMM College Students: Fellowshipping can start outside of the church walls by surrounding yourself with a diverse group of people-not just college students. This somewhat helps gives your a broader perspective in your college growth. I love attending my local church that I attend now because I saw kids, parents, babies, and other ages to give me a better view as a member of the human race. A cool place to start would be at the RFC, where you see all "walks of life" (age wise) from the community in one place.
”Fuel like from the Gasoline Station!”
One sermon at my local church was about attending church on Sundays regularly was like getting “fuel from the gasoline station” to keep one going throughout the week! I remember back in my college years, and I still do now; I would look forward to Sunday services to get “pumped-up”! Besides one’s devotional time with God daily in the Word, we need to hear from another “pioneer” or “man of God” that has already and still continues to “walk the walk”. Here is one excerpt example of this…
“(Jesus) He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: [Isaiah 61:1-2]…All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.”-Luke 4:16-22
However, we all may not be open to hear the truth; as we all get offended. Not all words shared by the pastor or speaker does not make everybody happy; as the truth does all give us some conviction. There has been countless sermons where I feel the messanger was speaking right at me (eg. how did he/she knew what I was going through?). That is God! He uses pastors, speakers, or messangers as vessels to speak into peoples lives. Instead of getting offended quickly to a particular message, like the continuation of the excerpt example from the Bible above…
“All the people in the syanagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him (Jesus) out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff”-Luke 28-29
Ask God how can this message change your life? Or test what was spoken with what God says in his Word/Bible based on what you’ve read or will read so far. Instead of feeding the negativity of what other people say, feed from the Source-Himself; that is why it’s important to have that “personal relationship” with God! There is no perfect man, which all of us will get offended from a message/sermon or anything we hear from a Christian.
My local church had another share on the "lockeroom", on how sunday services is like a football team getting together in the lockeroom to get "pumped-up" before going out-there in the world. Our presence-attendance as a church body, once you get committed to a local-home church, is very important to encourage one another:
Recently in a conversation about the need of fellowship, I shared my story how fellowship has been meeting the needs of the church body. A co-worker of mine, who happens to attend the same local church needed some help painting his house. Well, the local pastor sent a mass forward e-mail, which some responded-including me. Well, this is just one story of the blessings/advantages of fellowship. Another recent story was a couple in our church that needed people to help move some of their stuff. Over 10 people showed up to help!
The Fellowship of the Believers (Acts 2)
42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
In a mountain village in Europe a long time ago, a nobleman wondered what gift he could present to his townspeople. At last he decided to build them a church. No one saw the complete plans for the church until it was finished. When the people gathered, they marvelled at it's beauty. Then someone asked,"But where are the lamps? How will it be lighted?" The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls. then he gave them each family a lamp, asking them to bring these with them each time they came to worship. "Each time you are in church, the area where you are seated will be lighted," the nobleman said. "Each time you are not here, that area will be dark. this is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to church, some part of God's house will be dark."
Below are more testimonies relating to the need of finding a local/home church to build your fellowship spiritual health to grow in your personal relationship with God!
More Bible Verses:
Psalm 133 - Benefits of fellowship
Acts 16:13-15 - Lydia's desire for fellowship
Philippians 1:21-26 - Paul expresses the importance of fellowship
I John 1:3,7 - Fellowship with God, Jesus and others
-from Sisters in Christ
Fellowship As A Means of Growth
College Campus Testimonies
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Finding a Church
Above are some links I’ve gathered based on my experiences so far in my local/home church testimony. I will never be an expert on it, but a person after the heart of the Father. Please feel free to contact me of any questions, comments/complaints, suggestions (Local/home church-fellowship or other follow-up tips to help readers grow in Christ), testimonies/shares, or prayer requests relating to the information above.
"Food for Thought" sent (12/19/03) by my local Pastor
Rick Warren has a wonderful description of the benefits that come from being a part of a local church (from his book "The purpose driven life" p. 137)
"Why is it important to join a local church family? Because it
proves you are committed to your spiritual brothers and sisters in
reality, not just theory. God wants you to love real people, not
ideal people. You can spend a lifetime searching for the perfect
church, but you will never find it. You are called to love imperfect
sinners, just as God does.
"In Acts, the Christians in Jerusalem were very specific in their commitment to each other. They were devoted to fellowship. The Bible says, "They committed themselved to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers". God expects you to commit to the same things today. "the Christian life is more than just committment to Christ; it includes a committment to other Christians. The Christians in Macedonia understodd this. Paul said, 'First they gave themselves to the Lord, and then, by God's will, they gave themselves to us as well.' Joining the membership of a local church is the natural next step once you've become a child of God. You become a Christian by committing yourself to Christ, but you become a church member by committing yourself to a specific group of believers. The first decision brings salvation; the second brings fellowship."
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