Tierce Green had to get out of church to find God.

At the age of 10, after the death of his father, his mother made sure he attended church. She had hoped it would instill values and a sense of direction. She hoped it would melt his heart. Instead, Tierce says, church became a place of rules and regulations — and little else.

When I graduated from high school, I thought I'd been there and done that. I didn't want to do this again," he said. So when he went off to college, he left the church behind. "I was pretty smart; I went to college on an academic scholarship, and I thought that I could guess and find meaning on my own," he says. "But I really couldn't."

Tierce says he needed a community with heart to help him find his own heart. And he found that community the summer after his freshman year in college. They weren't overzealous and they weren't what he calls "churchy." They were authentic and caring, and they lived from their hearts.

"They showed me what God was really like," Tierce says. "In them, I saw authenticity. I saw a relational experience with God. And that's what finally made church come alive."

Tierce says too many people confuse the word "religion" with "relationship." Instead of truly inviting God into their lives and holding an ongoing conversation with Him, they find it easier to keep everything at arm's length. They'll get caught up in following the rules and being "perfect" Christians, and they miss out on what God really wants from us. 

"You clock in; you clock out. You do your time and you feel like you're good."

So what exactly does God want from us? Tierce says it's clearly spelled out in scripture: "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

"God wants us to humble ourselves and realize that we don't have it all figured out," Tierce says. "We need Him, and we need to love Him and to love others."

And that means opening up your heart to receive God into your life.

A church environment can serve as a powerful tool to love and support others, and to help you open your heart. But it's not the only place that can help.

"We know we need that interaction with other people because we're not designed to go through life solo. Church is important for that interaction with others. There's accountability and the support we need. But lots of people will substitute church for that relationship with God," and that where they lose their way.

"Church can be a good thing. But church without meaning and without a relationship with God is a colossal waste of time. It's just empty and frustrating." In other words, it lacks heart.

A Man and His StoryThis article is an excerpt from 33 The Series Volume 2: A Man and His Story.

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