Intentional, Deliberate, and Disciplined // M-Note 10.23.2020

I have a brother two years younger than me. Growing up we were always close. We would play video games together, basketball, ride bikes, and even box in the front yard (we only had one pair of gloves so I would get the left and he would get the right). While we went to different colleges, we stayed close. After school, he moved in with Jessica and me to live with us for a while before getting his own place nearby. In those days, I got to see him all the time. It was easy to keep up with one another because we were together so much. He eventually graduated from his program that was keeping him in St. Louis, he got married, started a family, and pursued opportunities that took him to Connecticut and eventually to Wisconsin. Even though he is not nearby anymore, we are still close. We text back and forth, share pictures of our kids, and talk on the phone. At least a couple of times a year our families get together, and we have a blast. But, here is what I learned. The farther away we are, the harder we have to work to stay connected. We are still very close, but it doesn’t happen as naturally. We don’t just happen to see each other. We have to be intentional, deliberate, and disciplined about staying connected.  
I was thinking about that because when it comes to God, something similar seems to be true right now. During 2020, we have not been able to be physically together in our church. Getting together with others is more difficult. Worshiping together, sharing in communion, holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, and serving are all happening, but now from a distance. And because of this physical distance, we can begin to feel further away from God. Faith, connection, and closeness to God is still possible, but it takes intentionality. Like a relationship with someone we love who lives far away, we have to be deliberate and disciplined about connecting in a new way.
At The Gathering, we hope to be able to worship together in person soon. But in the meantime, I want to invite you to consider a few simple ways to be more intentional about staying connected to God and one another during this time.
1.     Worship online regularly. If you miss it on Sunday morning, you can catch up with OnDemand. For all you podcasters, subscribe to The Gathering’s podcast. It is an easy way to listen to the message each week as you drive, workout, or have some alone time during the day. Start with catching the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson’s message from last Sunday here. This weekly rhythm will help you stay connected.
2.     Come to NEXT. A lot of you have HEARD a lot about NEXT but have never BEEN. I invite you to come even if you have been coming to The Gathering a while. During NEXT, I share the story of The Gathering, we have conversation together, answer questions, and share some simple ways you can get or stay connected during this time. I am hosting NEXT this Tuesday night and you can come in person at The Gathering McCausland or Zoom in. Just try it. NEXT can be a simple way to re-connect and get out of a rut if that is where you find yourself. You can find the details and register here.
3.     Join a CoreGroup or Growth Group. I know we talk about these a lot, but it is because when you find the right group for you, it is like a lifeline for your faith. It takes some work to find that right group, but that is ok. We are here to help you do that. You can join a CoreGroup at any time by reaching out to or check out the groups on our app or website.  In addition to CoreGroups, we have several short-term Growth Groups starting around various topics or life situations that may be perfect for you -- things like anxiety, body image, finances, justice, and LGTQIA parents. You can learn more or sign up for Growth Groups here. And if you don’t see one that is right for you, let Pastor Charity know and perhaps it is time to start a new one.
I know that as we are physically distanced, it takes more work and different disciplines to stay connected. But, I encourage you to keep at it, and try something new. I am incredibly proud of the way our church has stayed engaged during 2020, and remember that all of our pastors are here on our staff page, if you ever need to reach out.
P.S. This weekend in worship I am doing something I have NEVER done before at The Gathering. You will want to be a part of it so make sure to tune in to worship at 8, 9, 10, or 11am. Be ready for a challenge at the end of the message that has the opportunity to immediately change the lives of many in our church. Trust me, don’t miss it. I will see you in worship!

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