My name is Gabe Matos and this is a brief story of how developing a meaningful church community has had a profound impact on my relationship with God.
I grew up “churched”. For me, this meant spending every Saturday morning from 10 AM to 12 PM in a specific building doing specific things. It also meant not doing specific things for fear of being out of favor with God. This pattern generated in me a belief that my value was intricately woven into a set of acceptable thoughts and behaviors. I was comforted by believing that at any given time I could know where I stood with God, all I had to do was point to my behavior. This concept of God was easily controlled and easily understood.
But something was clearly missing. While I was convinced that I was“right with God”, there was also nothing more to be said. There was no relationship. I didn’t expect one. At the same time, my life outside of church was full of wonderful relationships. The part of me that longed for connectedness and the part of me that housed a concept of God had nothing to say about each other.
I continued my obligatory weekly church going, fueled largely by the comfort of continuing my churched childhood culture as well as nagging guilt if I didn’t attend. When my family and I started attending Freeport Church about three years ago I felt something change.
Something was different about me and something was different about this church. When asked who I was and where I was from, they actually paused, maintained eye contact, and listened. Their response was not rehearsed but rather appropriately tailored to my particular answer. Hmmm… this was something new. These new people invited me to their homes, fed me food, and laughed with my children. They were curious about my life and were interested in being part of it. Over time friendships developed. Slowly, the God part of me and the relationship part of me were sitting in the same room and started talking to each other in new ways.
My wife and I felt sufficiently intrigued by this new church experience that we desired more. We decided to start a weekly small group study at our home. This group continues to meet every Tuesday night and has become the highlight of my week. We almost never agree on theological questions and I frequently end the study feeling more confused than when it began, but what I consistently experience is a deepening of my relationship with God. Since making this weekly commitment, my concept of God has gradually undergone drastic changes. God must have known that, for me at least, I needed to experience His love through relationship with others in order to begin the process of developing a real relationship with Him.