Letting Go of Preconceived Notions About Being the Church

by | Oct 26, 2012 | Uncategorized

I accompanied my husband to preside at a wedding for a military chaplain in North Carolina shortly after I started blogging. The groom is an Anglican; the bride’s father, a Church of God minister. It was our first time to participate in a wedding performed by a priest in vestments standing next to a pastor wearing a suit. But that wasn’t the most unusual thing about the wedding for me.

It was the email I received later from the wedding planner:

“Who would have thought that in our brief meeting at a late August wedding that my life would be changed by your words?  I eagerly look forward to your blog, as a parched flower soaks up rain.  The depth and transparency of your blog makes me ask questions I didn’t know were in me.”

I didn’t know she was reading. We’d only met for a few brief moments over the placement of wedding flowers and attendants.

Her email, it was the first of many supernatural ways God began to draw me to people through blogging and social networking. A residual gift of writing I didn’t expect.

A few weeks ago, someone I don’t know *liked* my writer page on Facebook. I noticed we had one friend in common who isn’t a blogger. So I messaged her with a note of thanks for the follow. She responded by saying that she found my blog through the ticker feed on Facebook, when she saw our mutual friend *like* something I’d posted on my Writer page.

I’ve asked people to link their stories here on the theme of Letting Go on Friday in the comments each week throughout the 31 Days series. She encouraged her blogging partner to share her story. And this is what happened:

“When she wrote a post on our blog last night on letting go, I encouraged her to share it in your comments today. You having shared it the way you have on Facebook today, not only saw us have a spike on our blog stats but you have provided encouragement to my best friend who has had one of the hardest weeks she has been through in a long time.”

She went on to say how she was letting go of something she had not fully recognized until following the series.

I’ve experienced a few weeks of excessive “God-incidences.” Coming home from prayer walks to read comments on stories that were almost verbatim to the words I heard God speak to my heart moments before. Friends leaving comments on Facebook using particular word phrases of encouragement, identical to  emails and messages from people who don’t know each other.

Some people equate being the church as a mid-week potluck and sermon, gathering in a home to watch a video and talk about it, or making sandwiches for a homeless shelter. But I’m wondering if meeting in the living rooms and altars of our words on social networking isn’t exactly what being missional looks like in the 21st century.

What do you think?

God used a few posts around the web to speak to me on the theme of letting go and settling into who I am. I hope they speak to you too:

Letting Go vs. Holding On: Are You Packing Too Light? by Allison Vesterfelt at Prodigal Magazine

Timeline by Tara Pohlkotte at Pohlkotte Press

You Can Get Past Your Fear by Holley Gerth

Stop Waiting for God to Tell You What to Do With Your Life by Justin Zoradi at Storyline

This is #26 in the series 31 Days of Letting Go. You can read the collective here. If you are a writer, I invite you to link up any post you’ve written on the theme of letting go today in the comments. Subscribe to receive the series in your inbox or feed by adding your address in the side bar under Follow Redemptions Beauty.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Gayle

    Wow, I’ve been wondering the same thing. This past week I had a blogger acquaintance drove hundreds of miles visiting relatives and stopped by and we spent the day together. (If you have time check out my blog post I posted on it.) We laughed and visited and it was a great day.
    In May our family had four hospitalizations in six weeks. We had a newborn grand-baby that was ill with possible disabilities, and my daughter had emergency surgery on her spinal cord. I had a few friends here who were caring and supportive, but what surprised me was the outpouring of care and prayers from the blogging community. It was a blessing and I realized these were friends as well. Real friends that cared and prayed for our family. Perhaps you are right, the church is widening.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think, instead of fighting all the new technology, perhaps we can view it as the way in which God is speaking to His people. Ride the wave and listen. It’s what I’m trying to do. Thanks for sharing your stories Gayle, I love them. And what a gift it is to meet bloggers in real life. I got to do that at Laity with some High Calling writers a month ago and it was such an amazing time.

  2. pastordt

    Cue spooky music right here, because I had almost the exact same thought driving home tonight. I attended a Young Life Fundraiser at the invitation of a friend from the church I now attend and used to help pastor. She needed help hosting the two tables she filled and I was glad to cooperate. The program was fabulous and I saw a lot of people around that large room that I know and care about. But when I got into the car, I said this to the Lord: “Okay, now. I feel so much more connected these days to the community you’ve been drawing me into online than I do to these friends whom I seldom see anymore. What is that all about??” So YES, I am redefining community. Big time.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I do love the way God’s voice echoes here in the blog world too Diana. It’s another one of the gifts of being on-line with friends. I’m really glad you shared this with me. It give me pause, makes me realize I’m not alone as much as I think I am.

  3. Emma

    Shelly, I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for sharing our story. The timing of each of these instances has been amazing & the encouragement I have received not just by connecting here but by comments left on our own blog has overwhelmed me. Long may the “God-incidences” continue. Emma

    • Redemption's Beauty

      These incidences are such a gift to me. It’s like God standing in the room and responding to all my questions, doubts and fears. Love it.

  4. Lori

    Oh, yes yes and yes……this is the church, we are the church in action. I like to think of social media as what used to be talking across the fence or village drumbeats. We just do it differently now. I have met people blogging I never would have met any other way, and I say that they have enriched my life….definitely! I was just surprised a few weeks ago when a Mom of my neice’s schoolmate contacted me on FB and said how she looks forward to reading my blog…I never even knew she knew about it!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Don’t you love getting those messages? It’s like a gift you didn’t expect. And I’m daily amazed at the way God pulls us together with people we never even knew existed before social media. I’m so grateful. Grateful to have met you Lori and for the BibleDude community. An answer to prayer for me in more ways than one.

  5. wynnegraceappears

    Oh Shelly, yes the hands and feet of Christ, the body of Christ, and the relationships through this writing world, blogging community, praying for one another, encouraging one another, lifting one another up, listening to one another, caring for each other, and celebrating or crying with each other…the Church. Thank you for your place here. You have me thinking on releasing and Amber with her Chains…a good combination for healing. Celebrating release with you. http://www.wynnegraceappears.com/2012/10/Chains

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Glad you are finding it to be that way for you too Elizabeth.

  6. Megan Willome

    My online community consists of my closest friends. We are the church to each other in a consistent way that we couldn’t be at “real” church because we all go to different places.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You make a very good point Megan. I love that. I find myself in a predicament in my hometown. We moved here four years ago and most of the friends we’ve made were in our church, that is going through division. We’ve had to leave that church and now I find myself in a lonely place. But I don’t have that issue with my on-line family of friends. Those relationships aren’t about where we go to church.

  7. tara pohlkotte

    yes. yes. i feel this too. brought me back to the heart of church. hearts held fast together. it doesn’t matter if we are sitting across a table or across computer desks, we are here. our lives pressed up against each others. {thank you too for including my link, so blessed by your friendship.}

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Tara, your words echo a very important conversation I had with my coach today. It doesn’t matter if our hearts connect in person or on-line, God is in our midst. And it’s a privilege to share your story. I want others to be as blessed as I am by your writing. I know you’ll be famous some day.

  8. lolita

    “But I’m wondering if meeting in the living rooms and altars of our words on social networking isn’t exactly what being missional looks like in the 21st century.”

    I most certainly, definitely agree to this, Shelly. I now have a community of believers, sharing life, stories, encouragement, prayers and more…… in this www. I appreciate this media so much. If not for this, how could I be connected to you.

    There is warfare here too, because I have been put out the web so drastically when our free connection in the office has been cut. Our new COO, a daughter of our boss is so strict, she treats us like construction workers. It is a privilege we no longer have currently. So I struggle on how to get on-line. When budget permits, i could load up my portable prepaid broadband and I can hook up. Like now, Saturday is a lean day, a nice time to connect to our community, church if you may. It is a place I miss and need so much.

    Thanks for the insight, Shell!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, that just breaks my heart that you lost your free connection. I wish there was something we could do about that. You are too valuable at this communion table to be away for so long. We miss you. And thank you Lo, for affirming that this really is being the church right here.

  9. altarofheaven

    I was thinking about this post again today and shared your message with my husband. I do think social media has helped us lift above ‘denomination’ stovepipes and look to Jesus Christ. Especially when we share the God-incidences encouraging each other not to ‘explain it away’ but acknowledge God. I told my husband I’m done explaining things as coincidences, that is God! I have been having a great time reading old journals before i personally knew Jesus Christ and weep because He was always there and i used to explain things away, I let go of that! I’m thankful i have been healed by His blood through faith!

    Proverbs 16:33.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love this Arcelia. Isn’t that so much of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. We can’t always explain why or how things happen, we just accept that God is at work among us and that is all we need to know.
      I’ve had the privilege in the past of making photo journals for people who have loads of old photos they want organized and it is so stunning, the way I could see in the photos, without even knowing the people, how God shapes a life. It is so good to look back and see He was there all the time, it helps us to move forward and increases our faith. So glad you are doing that. I’ve been going back and reading comments here as I navigate my writing journey. They sustain me some days. Hope you have a wonderful Sunday of worship.

  10. Jane Fawkes

    I just had to comment back on your blog post. Thank-you again for linking our blog to your facebook page, as Em said in her note it has been a difficult time in different ways for both of us, and it has meant a lot. I would also say that I completely agree with you;I think social networking and the interconnections is the new form of church. I help with the youth work on a Sunday morning, so most weeks don’t get to hear the service. God has been really using your blog to sustain me, challenge me and give space for reflection over the last few months. God particularly spoken to me through Hosea 6v3 that you posted the other week- I want to know restoration and feel God’s spring rain in my life.
    It shows God does use many ways to speak to us, and link relationships, which don’t have to be in a physical building.
    Thanks for all you are doing.


    • Redemption's Beauty

      Jane, its such a pleasure to connect with you today. Your words have lifted my hands to our Father in thanksgiving. Nothing is insignificant when we walk with Him, is it? So glad you’ve been here reading along, it’s really been lovely getting to know you and Emma.

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