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Hope in Disarray: Piecing Our Lives Together in Faith By: Grace Ji-Sun Kim

This book, "Hope in Disarray" takes the world’s pain seriously in order to ignite our intentional, revolutionary, and integrated living.

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CHURCH LIFE But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. —John 4:23–24 Since I was young, I have always woken early on Sunday mornings and anticipated the day. Church presented itself as the convenient hybrid between a community center and free English classes, and my father was ever inclined to take advantage of such a resource after immigrating from Korea. My sister and I became enveloped in a burgeoning church schedule: on Wednesday nights we had Bible study at a Baptist Church, Friday nights we had fellowship at the Missionary Alliance Church, Sunday mornings were for Sunday school at another Baptist Church, Sunday afternoons we attended our regular Korean Church, and then later in the evening we made our way to a different Baptist Church for Sunday night worship. Back in those days, my whole life was centered around church. Due to my poor English, I didn’t have much of a social life at school, so the knowledge that I would be able to play with other kids on a loaded schedule was a saving source of kinship. Undoubtedly, church was an essential part of my upbringing. This is why I frequently get frustrated with my children. They grew up attending church once a week. On Sundays when I wake them up they often plead with me not to go. When I try to wake up my youngest to go to church, he rolls and moans around in his bed for as long as he can. He pretends to sleep and continues to ignore me. Then, at a certain point of annoyance, I usually start making more noise and aggressively raise the blinds, strip him of his covers, and command him once more to wake up and get ready for church. He’ll huff out, “Seriously, AGAIN?” Then I’ll yell back, “What do you mean AGAIN? This is the first time this week!” While it both irritates and disappoints me, I can sympathize with my son. I had thought the same way on countless occasions when I was pulled against my will to go to church. I know that this is a shared experience for children, but it is also one that afflicts adults. As a minister, I have seen many people who were once regular faces attend less and less frequently, until finally years go by without seeing them at all. There are a multitude of reasons why someone may not return to church. Most often, it is self-appointed. You may justify it to yourself, meditating between reasons and excuses as to why you don’t need to go. What is the point? I am already secure in my faith. What is the benefit of leaving home to go to a physical space? Most of us have likely considered such questions. Since technology has made nearly every service more accessible, convenient, expedient, and customizable, the necessity for church attendance is being put in question like it never has been before. Church services are taped and put online, and now with the advent of livestreaming, we are able to watch services in real time. We may be glimpsing into a promising future of the church through the democratized access of church services for the unable and the curious, yet we cannot deny that it stifles the agency to engage in a physical space of worship and the natural fellowship that follows. Thus, we must remind ourselves of the virtue and essentialism of attending service. The Bible reminds us that we must not neglect “our meeting together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25). There is power in coalition, community, and togetherness, especially with other believers who can strengthen your faith as you do theirs. We all long for meaningful connections in our lives. Perhaps those we have with members of our church can be some of the most significant ones, because unlike most friends who pass through our social circles during different periods of our lives, the kinship we share with companions at church endures despite distance and despite passed time. God has given us a gift in calling us to gather with one another for church. It deeply fulfills something within us to do life with another, as we embolden and revitalize one another to be more involved in each other’s lives. While there is much to gain from other sources of Christian education through books, podcasts, livestreams, and TV, nothing can replace our physical church for the education that comes with being part of a Christian community. We can grow more together than we can alone. The faith community is a large factor in maintaining our spiritual health. We need to hear what others have to say as we grow in faith and as we encourage one another in the process. The church is the optimal place for children and youth to begin their spiritual journeys; they are immersed with the like-minded at the foot of life’s path to understanding the gospel. While young children and teens can have fellowship with other Christians around their age, adults can form strong friendships at a time when so many feel they cannot form new friendships or maintain them. Church can become a special place where people of all races, ethnicities, classes, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities can come together in commitment, to worship, serve, and support one another. An intersectional church recognizes that people experience multiple intersecting realms that come together and reshape our lives. In our journey as Christians we are not called to do it alone. We need one another. The church was designed from its origin to function as the living body of Christ on earth after Jesus’ resurrection. The apostle Paul tells us, “for as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, prophecy, in proportion to faith” (Romans 12:4–6). We need to be in regular fellowship with a breadth of believers so that we may benefit from their spiritual gifts and ultimately offer our spiritual gifts to them and the body of Christ. As we share our gifts with one another, the congregation we belong to grows more fruitful and effectual, and, thus, we as individuals are made stronger as both givers and receivers in faith. Reflection 1. What is your current experience of church? What can you remember about your earliest experiences of church? What similarities and differences have you experienced in church over time? 2. How have other members of the body of Christ helped you grow spiritually? 3. How can you encourage your church to be intercultural and intersectional so that all people can be welcomed and embraced?


"Church Life," from Hope in Disarray, copyright (c) 2020 Grace Ji-Sun Kim. Published by The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, OH. Used by permission. All other rights reserved.


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