Belonging Before Believing

I was at an event this past weekend and I heard something that truly resonated with me---a phrase that I've heard more than once over the past few months in a variety of settings. 

The context where I heard this is important.  It was part of a larger conversation about ministries to young adults, and how the church seems to be swinging and missing when it comes to reaching them. 

For the pasty several years people who report on church trends have been sounding the alarm over the increasing number of young adults who are leaving the Church.  

Additionally, for the past five years the fastest growing religious affiliation in the U.S. every year is "None." 

The Church is messing it up.  Badly.  Which is where this phrase that I heard comes in... 

Here it is:  Belonging before Believing.  

The idea is that before people can truly come to understand the fullness of what it means to be a Jesus-follower, or an engaged part of a faith community---they need to belong first.  They need to know that there is a space for them there. 

I decided to do an online search of that phrase and see what popped up.  The initial search revealed a bunch of churches, and Christian organizations that touted "Belonging before Believing" as an essential tenet of their efforts to reach emerging generations.

But when I started digging into these churches and organizations, I soon realized that not everyone is fully welcomed into their membership.  I also discovered that the list of people who were able to serve in leadership of these churches and organizations is even narrower.

Before I could get all sanctimonious about that fact, I wondered about my own church. I began to ask myself, "Are there things that we do and say that indicate that not everyone belongs in our faith community?" 

It's the kind of question that we should be asking of our faith communities, don't you think?  And further, maybe we should be asking that question of ourselves.  

Are we fully committed to providing space to belong in our communities of faith?  In our friend circles?  Are we comfortable with diversity?  Are we okay with difference? 

In a culture that is becoming more and more contentious and divided, it is incumbent on those of us who claim to follow Jesus to do everything we can to find ways to be peacemakers, and to provide space for belonging.  

How are you living this out in your own life?  My challenge today is to find moments where you can let someone know that they belong... in your life, in your faith community or in a group you are a part of.  

Belonging before believing.  May it be so for you as well.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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