The Value of the Local Church
Growing Up in Christian Culture
Growing up in a solid, Bible-teaching church while attending a connected Christian elementary school, I was immersed in Christianity at an early age. I made a childhood profession of faith and saw God at work in seasons of my life, yet as time progressed, it was evident that I had not given up every aspect of my life to the Lord (Luke 9:23). I was living in sin, rarely reading God’s Word or praying. Consequently, I did not see the need for genuine fellowship or church involvement. Struggling with social anxiety issues and not desiring to be vulnerable with others, I made little effort to get to know people at church, instead keeping my struggles to myself. I would often come to church, hear a sermon, and leave promptly, exchanging a handful of brief greetings in passing.
During this time, I also experienced many theological struggles as I began to be exposed to more liberal doctrine outside of church. I often found myself attempting to come up with different interpretations of Scripture to justify my sin or to reconcile my personal views. Though I was frequently tempted to leave my home church, out of fear of change and by God’s mercy, I continued attending. As I went through an intense season of wrestling with the Lord over my sin and salvation, I began to wonder whether Christianity was something I still believed. Was the Bible really infallible? Did I just believe it because it was familiar to me?
The Lord Working in My Heart
While ensnared in my sin, I did not feel like attending church and would often make up excuses to skip Sundays as God was not the ultimate priority in my life. On the occasions I came, I felt a war raging in my soul as I heard biblical truth taught from the pulpit. My flesh did not like what was being preached, but I felt compelled to listen, as deep down, my heart knew that the teaching was true. It was the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience (John 6:44). Although I am unsure of the exact moment that I was saved by repenting of my sins and believing in Christ as Lord of all, I know this time period was a huge turning point for me. As the Lord was greatly working in my heart, I slowly became plugged into church through a new young ladies small group, a young adult Sunday School class, and discipleship with some young moms. Each week, I began desiring a closer walk with the Lord, and was blessed to have accountability, teaching, and fellowship to foster my walk. The more I saw my church family authentically living out biblical theology in practical ways, the stronger my conviction became that the Bible is sufficient and inerrant (2 Tim 3:16). For the first time, I began to understand how vital it was to be involved in a local church body. God used this time to prepare my heart for the chapter of my walk at Grace Bible Fellowship.
Moving and Finding GBF
Though it was a grueling decision, I moved from the Los Angeles area to the Bay area for my work in October, 2015. It was difficult to say goodbye to my family, friends, and my home church, especially since I was growing in my faith and was just becoming integrated. Anxious about the future, I clung tightly to the promise that God would not abandon me (Deut 31:6). In my first two weeks here, I visited different churches recommended by home friends that ended up being unbiblical. After those unfulfilling experiences and still being here alone, I was craving to find a solid fellowship quickly. The third week I was here, the Holy Spirit led me to GBF, which turned out to be a very different experience. The people seemed genuine and eager to get to know me. Pastor Cliff’s sermon was a stark contrast from the teaching I had heard the previous weeks as it was filled with the right balance of hard-hitting, convicting truth and grace taken directly from God’s Word. I remember thinking during the first service that I had found my new church family. Of course, over time, GBF more than met my expectations and I never left.
Getting Plugged into My New Family
From the start of my time at GBF, I was so hungry to learn truth from God’s Word that I began joining anything offered: multiple Bible studies, small group, discipleship, and serving in several ministries. Within a few months, I was able to confidently articulate the gospel and my testimony. Additionally, the theological struggles and doubts I had once had of God were replaced with a supernatural peace that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can provide. I am still a sinner in need of God’s daily grace and still far from reaching spiritual maturity, but I am blessed by this church that equips me to strive for that. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It is God’s design that as believers we gather regularly to spur one another on to fight the good fight. I love GBF’s solid teaching, genuine fellowship with brothers and sisters, and shepherding elders who weekly refresh, feed, exhort, and graciously correct my soul. Looking back, I have wondered why I agreed to leave LA and move here. I now know God brought me here to transform my life for His glory through GBF. I am unsure how long I will have the blessed opportunity to live here, but for as long as I am here, I look forward to continually growing in Christ alongside my GBF spiritual family.