As a college freshmen, I was dually excited and terrified to start a new life on my own. I was moving eight hours away from home and I didn’t know a single soul in Tallahassee. Will I find a church? Will I make friends? What if I never figure out what I want to major in or do with my life? I had a lot of concerns, but I knew that ultimately God was calling me to Tallahassee. So I went.
It wasn’t long before I got plugged into a campus ministry at Florida State. Within the first couple of days moving in, I joined the Baptist Collegiate Ministry and began to make some friends, but I knew that a campus ministry couldn’t substitute for a local church. As much as I loved being around my friends, I also wanted to be around those that were older, wiser, and could speak truth into my life. I grabbed a couple of friends and we “church hopped” for quite some time, attending different churches on Sunday mornings to find the right fit.
Ultimately, I knew I wanted a gospel-preaching church, somewhere that cared more about preaching God’s Word than how hip they came across, but I also wanted to be somewhere that I felt comfortable bringing a non-Christian friend. I was torn between churches far longer than I care to admit. I think a part of me was holding on to finding a church like my former home church. Every time I walked into a different building on a Sunday, I would begin to evaluate the way greeters would greet, how genuine the worship was, and how captivating the speaker was. No church could compare to what I was looking for.
As months went by, I realized that I couldn’t keep doing this. God softened up my heart and I realized there was never going to be a “perfect” church. The church is made up of broken people. Of sinners. Like me.
Once I really understood that, I had the freedom to just go to church to worship. City Church was somewhere I had visited during my time exploring churches. I went back and enjoyed a Sunday morning service as if it was my home church. I instantly felt at home being there. Everyone that came on stage unapologetically preached, sang, or declared the truth of the gospel, but they didn’t have to be weird or “extra-spiritual” to do it. One Sunday became two and eventually I found myself calling City Church my church.
Not long after, I began to serve with the City Church Band, City Church KiDS, and I joined a CityGroup. I was definitely overeager, but I was so excited to finally have a church to call home. Between being a part of all of these different ministries, I met so many people and grew faster in my faith than I ever had.
Being a part of both the band and the KiDS team forced me to grow out of being a more painfully timid introvert. I also gained a lifelong mentor through meeting so many different people at CityChurch and I had more people than I can count praying for me and walking with me when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness two years ago.
That’s what a church does. It first worships and speaks the truth of the gospel, but it also lifts and encourages its people to do life together and not alone. Towards the end of my time here, CityChurch allowed me to work with their communications team to do what I love to do in a ministry setting.
Having to leave City Church after graduating ended up being one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Dealing with a chronic illness and coming home to visit some doctors to finally take steps to healing was something I needed to do, but it would have been far more difficult to go through alone. When I wasn’t seeing improvement and I was discouraged, my City Church family was still encouraging me, even from eight hours away. Now, I've graduated from college and am moving away to begin the next phase of my life. Because of the support and encouragement I’ve received from my church community, I am beginning to pursue different opportunities so that I am able to do what I love to do to glorify God.
I really don’t know if I would have been able to know what that looks like without the time that I had at City Church. I will always be grateful to my church for showing me what a local church should look like. I will always call City Church home, no matter where I end up.
Stephanie graduated from Florida State with a degree in Editing, Writing, and Media. She served in the band, City Church KiDS, and on the communications team.