I've grown up as a church kid. From a very early age I've heard about Jesus and how being good makes God happy. Even as a college sophomore, I've never had alcohol, never done drugs, never slept around, and never done "bad" things in general. I think my relationship with Jesus became real when I was a high school Sophomore, but I knew very little about His true character. Every day I fell into the "if I'm good, God will love me" lie and was overwhelmed by guilt and a sense of being trapped.
Two years ago my family started attending Mars Hill Eastside. Resisting change, I drug my feet and tried to make every Sunday as miserable as possible. I complained about the coffee, the music, and how no one talked to me. Last July I decided to try a community group. At first I was overwhelmed by the 14 guys and only 4 girls. However, for some reason I came back again and again. My cg leader has a story pretty similar to mine. He challenged me to step out of my initial "church kid" response to everything and to see a different Jesus than I was used to.
When I did, I discovered that I had a relationship with Jesus that was driven by a desire to do things instead of a fear for the consequences. I discovered a desire to serve that didn't come naturally before. I discovered that sharing Jesus with my friends doesn't have to be a theological discussion...it can be a Facebook status. I learned about showing grace. I learned how to study my Bible. And last, but not least, I learned how to forgive the deep pain and anger from my past.
My community group has been a huge influence on my life. Some of the people in that group make sure I don't fall back into the "church kid" pattern. My cg leader's wife is an amazing example of a godly woman and I have learned so much from just watching her. And through these people I'm seeing how to legitimately pray and live my life in view of the fact that it really IS all about Jesus..instead of just saying it is. I'm finally understanding what my youth pastor was saying when he said "being a Christian shouldn't be part of your biography: I'm a dancer, actor, Christian, and waitress. It should BE your biography."
I could go on and on about the preaching and how I've seen God work in miraculous ways in my life since I've come to Mars Hill, but it's really the people doing life with me that have changed everything.