This is the foreword, written by Ray Ortlund, to my new book, Belong: Loving Your Church by Reflecting Christ to One Another.
You belong to Christ (Mark 9:41)
God created us to belong, both to him and to one another. But our pride drove us far away, both from him and from one another. Now Jesus is bringing us back, both to him and to one another.
Belonging is an adjustment for every one of us. Maybe there was a time when we felt so superior that belonging was beneath us. Or maybe we felt safer in our own guarded aloofness. Or maybe we feared that belonging might pull us into commitments we couldn’t live up to. But if you have picked up this book, you are at least open to go back to belonging. This book will help you see your options more clearly and make your decisions more confidently.
Here’s why your future will get better by bravely jumping in. Jesus is not out to save isolated individuals scattered here and there. He is creating and gathering a new community where everyone deeply belongs, both to him and to one another. And when we finally belong, really belong, to a group of people we respect and enjoy, it feels so good. We’ve come home.
I admit, it isn’t easy to get there. It can be even harder to stay there. If the belonging we all desire was simple and formulaic, the experience would be common. In fact, for me, it can be difficult to stop and think about belonging. The topic stirs painful memories. I know what it’s like to discover that I did not belong. I thought I did. But I was wrong. And it hurt. Maybe you too? Churches can make belonging hard and even risky. Which is to say, churches can make it hard to experience Jesus. And that is not okay.
Barnabas Piper has written this wonderful book, because he understands from personal experience both how hard and how glorious belonging can be. He is qualified to help the rest of us think it through. I believe you will find in Barnabas a trustworthy guide, because his experience is deep and his conclusions are honest. Most importantly, Barnabas is a faithful follower of Jesus. The Lord gently led him from the outer margins all the way to the deepest heart of Immanuel Church in Nashville. I watched Barnabas walk that journey. Sometimes it was painful. Other times it was joyful. Always it was Jesus leading Barnabas closer to his heart. From his early cautious explorations all the way to his eventual glad commitments, Barnabas kept on saying “Yes” to Jesus. And now he is helping us make Immanuel a safe place for still others to belong. His story looks to me like the newness of life that Jesus died and rose again to create.
Barnabas wisely counsels us, “The church is the only place we can heal from the hurt we’ve encountered in church.” If he’s right – and he is – then this book might open a door for you to heal in surprising ways.
So, I commend to you this book by my friend Barnabas. He is a man who can truly say, “Follow me, as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Pastor to Pastors
My book, Belong: Loving Your Church by Reflecting Life to One Another, is now available from The Good Book Company. It is part of the Love Your Church Series along with volumes from Tony Merida and Jen Oshman. Free discussion guides and video teaching is available with each book as well to help your church or small group.