I've grown up in a Christian home.
Since birth, my parents and family have taught me about the never-ending love of God and instilled the Bible's teachings and values in my life.
Around the time I started high school, my faith really became my own. I was getting ready to be able to drive myself to church on my own, I changed churches because of where I felt God calling me to go, and I attended church because I wanted to, not because it was where my parents went every Sunday.
I'll admit, when your faith becomes your own, it opens you up to an even bigger spiritual warfare because you're essentially declaring your relationship with the Lord is your own and not a byproduct of how you grew up. It's basically raising a spiritual hand to Satan and telling him, "Talk to the hand."
And that can be dangerous. But it's always worth it.
It feels good to take your life and your faith into your own hands. In my case, I reached an age where I truly understood what God had done for me earlier than the age where I could drive or stay out past a certain time. In my mind, making my faith my own was really my first step into "adulthood," or at least what we think that looks like now.
So, what's the next step after making your faith your own?
Well, that's a bit of a tricky question because different people will give you different answers depending on their opinion. Some will say a good church, some will say changing your Facebook profile to say "Christian," and others will say something else.
While I think there are a lot of wonderful, biblically-truthful answers to this question, most believers would give you a list of things that you'd look to when thinking about next steps. Don't worry, it's not daunting at all.
The first step would obviously be to purchase a Bible if you don't already have one. While church is certainly important, the Bible is God's own word and the closest thing we have to His physical presence. It's basically a love letter to those who believe in Him, so why not start with the best part of all?!
The second would be to research churches if you don't already attend one. Find someplace that definitely preaches the Bible as God intended it to be preached. Also, find somewhere that you enjoy going! Just because it's new to you doesn't mean it can't be fun. God actually intended going to church and your relationship with Him to be something you love, I promise.
And the third step is my personal favorite.
Consider joining a life group! This can also be called a small group or bible study. Essentially it's a smaller group of people within your church who gather together at least one day a week to study the Bible in a more intimate setting.
I know intimate settings can sound intimidating, especially if you've never been part of a bible study before and even more so if you're a new Christian. However, let me ease some of that nervousness.
The majority of these people will also go to the church the small group is affiliated with. That gives you a chance to meet people at your church and engage in fellowship with them throughout the week as opposed to just on Sundays.
Also, they are there to do exactly what you're doing - learn more about God and His word for us. There should be no judgment there, and if there is, know that's not how God means it to be and seek out another bible study. I can guarantee not all of them will be the exact same.
Thirdly, God's Word calls us to be in fellowship with one another because it makes our walk with God stronger and it's also easier when we have other believers in our corner.
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,". We are not called to stir one another up in anger or anxiety or anything that would harm another believer, but to stir hearts to show love and live in such a way that God's love saturates everything we do, say, and even think. This verse is a lot like 1 Thessalonians 5:11, which says, "Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another,".
We are called, as Christians, to be a light to a pretty dark world. But we are also called to be a light to each other and to commune with one another so that we can be refueled in the midst of how much we are called to pour out.
Lastly, I recommend being a part of a smaller group of believers studying the Bible because it enables you to glimpse even more of God throughout your week and to commune with God himself.
Matthew 18:20 says, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be among them." I don't know about y'all, but this verse particularly brings peace to my heart. There are times when, as a believer, you'll question whether God is really there or not, and this verse is an unshakeable promise and fact that He is indeed there through it all.
I joined a life group at my home church when I was in high school because I wanted to know more about God's Word and gather with my friends at the church as God tells us to. I was a young teen who sought to fit in, while never wanting to give up my faith in order to do that. Eventually, my love for God won out over the desire to fit in and I am so glad for that because being a part of a bible study helped in that!
I am also a part of one campus ministry at my college. It's so important, as a young believer, to stay connected to your relationship with God at college because that's such a time of change and new experiences. Being a part of a Christian ministry there has helped me stay grounded and stick to my roots. The small group I attend there continues to help me stay connected to my faith and has also introduced me to some amazing friends.
If you're not a Christian, I invite you to explore your place in the heart of a God who does not discriminate, forgives all, remains present, and wants so badly to have a conversation with you.
If you're a believer, I am so happy to share this relationship with you and our Savior. It's a difficult road, as the Bible tells us, but one that's worth being traveled down and is such a blessing in the end. Whether you have all three (Bible, church, and life group) or only one of those listed above, I encourage you to dwell in Christ and dig as deep as you can into this wonderful love we get to witness and receive from God.
If you're in between and don't really know what you are, I encourage you to keep searching for truth, love, and righteousness. I encourage you to accept God's love for you while I also understand that it's a serious decision to make and that Satan can make it a very hard thing to give your heart and worries over to God.
Regardless of where you stand, you deserve to know that you have so many believers who love you and who root for you, including me!