Find Your People

by talya bakker

“Do you smell it, church? There are angels above us!”

The pastor gestured to the left, “this one smells of honey” then to the right, “and this one of vanilla. There are angels in this place today!” My heart beat faster. I could smell it: vanilla. Clear, fresh and floral. My grip tightened on the seat in front of me as I whispered eagerly:  “do you smell vanilla?” Men and women were raising their arms all around us in worship. My sister blushed, “it’s my perfume.”

We stood in silence while the congregation sang around us.

Whether or not there were angels present at church that day, I was the odd one out. Belonging to a church community has always been a challenge. After a lifetime in a Christian setting, my understanding of “church” was to turn up on a Sunday with a bible. Pray, sing, listen, leave. I tried on lifegroups like scents in duty free: a fun pit stop before takeoff. This attitude left me lonely and diasporic. I was still sampling perfumes while the crowd was smelling angels.

Something needed to change. In this book I read recently, Destined to Win (the content is better than the title, promise), Kris Vallatton writes that each one of us has a vision and way of seeing the world. He uses a metaphor of travelling to show how we gravitate to those with a similar vision and perspective on living out our faith. What I realised is that even though I had travelled the world, when it came to journeying the Kingdom road, I was still stuck in duty free!

If we’re gonna pound the spiritual pavement, the Bible makes it clear that we can’t do it alone. The church is a community who should, as it’s put in Hebrews “...consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (10:24-25). Interestingly, “community” and “commitment” have the same Latin root, meaning “together.” While my experience of angels in church served as a reminder of my isolation from others, it now serves to encourage my commitment to living out faith together with those around me.

So, here’s what I’ve learned so far about commitment and a church community:

  1. Be brave and persevere. Making a poorly timed joke or getting called the wrong name is not a reason to give up. We are made by the Lord God Almighty, who made you as a testament to his great works. Through prayer and perseverance will God work in our lives.
  2. Sometimes, you have to make the first move. The more you step out in faith and build up others in love, the more God will build you up too.
  3. Join a lifegroup and commit to going regularly. Putting time and effort into a smaller group allows you to explore the scriptures at greater depth. Lifegroups can also feel like a social lifeboat in the sea of churchgoers.
  4. Genuine connection to a church and community comes from commitment and vulnerability. Be real and everyone else will be too.

While church is often hard and my community is still very much a work in progress, I’m starting to smell vanilla.


about the author

After spreading my wings and having some epic travels around Europe, Russia and the States, I've been figuring out what it means to plant roots and grow deep.

I love looking at the potential God has placed in every one of us to do great things, from poetry and mechanics to art on the street. My hobby is documenting streetart from around the world and posting it on my Instagram @streetartstyles. We style the streets while God styles our hearts.