"Life after WCCS" with Elise Denney, ’13
We caught up with alumna, Elise Denney, ’13, recently and asked her to share with us some thoughts about “life after WCCS” and how she continues to grow in her relationship with Christ and her desire to bless the world around her for His Kingdom’s sake! She had some wise words to share with our current WCCS students about truly seeking after the Lord and being a part of His Church!
If you had told “high school Elise” that she would be spending her summer working for the student ministry of a local church, she probably would not have believed you. Don’t get me wrong, I knew church was important, but I thought it could be substituted for other things…chapel, small group, retreats, youth group, maybe even bible class....anything to get me out of waking up early on Sunday mornings. Often times as a student at WCCS, opportunities to encounter Christ are conveniently woven into our daily school schedule. Without a doubt, this is an incredible blessing, but we have to be careful that it does not become a normalcy or an excuse to not seek the Lord on our own.
"Often times as a student at WCCS, opportunities to encounter Christ are conveniently woven into our daily school schedule."
Fast forward to college and now I can see how the Lord was pursuing me in ways that puts my half-hearted pursuit of Him to shame. When choosing a college, strong Christian community was not among the top of my priority list. In fact, I’m sorry to say that it was not really something I considered even a little bit. Fortunately, the Lord is endlessly faithful and knows what we need before we even know how to ask for it. At Clemson, I found friends that truly reflected Christ in the incredible way that they loved others. These same friends invited me to attend Grace Church and I became a member after about a year of attending regularly.
Grace Church has a summer internship program called Kairos that I was blessed to be a part of this past summer. Kairos is a 10 week internship where you work in a particular ministry area (I worked in student ministry) while also taking discipleship courses. You live with a host family that attends the church while interning. Some of my service jobs included planning events and mission trips for their youth group and building relationships with the middle and high schoolers that attended.
As I reflect on the summer I spent with Grace Church, I am filled with gratitude and wonder. Kairos is a unique experience that gives you a rare, close-up look to how Christ passionately pursues the Church as His bride again and again. Kairos has filled me with new life and urgency for personally loving and serving the church. This was something I thought I understood before, but now I have been humbled enough to see how I approached the church solely as a consumer. The question in my mind has changed from “What can the church do for me?” to “What can I do for the church?”. I now understand more deeply how thankfully and reverently we should approach an institution that God has promised to sustain forever. It’s amazing that He allows us be a part of that even in our brokenness—a brokenness He chooses again and again to use for His ultimate glory. It is this beautiful mindset of redemption that fills the halls of Grace Church and captivated me all summer long.
"The question in my mind has changed from 'What can the church do for me?' to 'What can I do for the church?'"
Wherever you may be today in your walk with Christ, I would encourage you to not overlook the holy and eternal institution we call “Church.” It is to our immense spiritual benefit that we seek opportunities to be involved with a local church. Here are some ways that Church was designed by the Lord to bless us:
- Community: The Church is a collection of disconnected individuals brought together into a new people and into a new family. You are always invited in. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” We are literally called to come together and seek ways to glorify Him as a unit. When you choose to not commit to a church, you squander the chance to use your spiritual gifts and be a part of the Lord’s work, which has impact on both heaven and earth far beyond our understanding.
- Authority: I hear ya, the rebel child in me shudders as well. In our culture, we are taught that coming under authority is not fun, but hang with me. Coming under authority in the local church is actually a protective blessing. Receiving spiritual authority keeps us from becoming self-centered and critical. It humbles us and helps us extract insidious sin buried deep in our lives. Ephesians 4:20-24 says, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” We need to attend church regularly in order to spur each other on spiritually toward this goal and encounter those that know how to be encouraging and disruptive with grace.
- Spiritual Growth: Your identity in Christ makes you who you are, but your growth in Christ is contingent on being engaged with the Church and being obedient in how the Scripture tells us to treat our church family. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Being transformed into the image of Christ is a lifelong process. We can’t be flighty consumers of the Church and expect to reap the benefits of this transformation. We have to be whole-hearted investors and look for ways for the Church to seep into every area of our lives, not just what we have to give on Sunday mornings.
If you get nothing else from reading this, please let it be this: Church demonstrates the intangible presence of Jesus. Don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to experience that by being noncommittal with the Church. It is what you were created for and your soul longs for it!