About a month ago, I had the privilege of being a part of the worship team for the Valley United Conference here in McAllen, Texas. The Valley United is more than a conference. It's a hope. A hope for the Rio Grande Valley to stop the separation between churches and believers and to instead unite for the purpose of the gospel.

We're on the same team.

I see it so often, denomination vs denomination. Protestant vs Catholic. Church on the North side vs the church on the South side. And I think it puts a big grin on someone's face (hint: it's not God.)

Even in my colonia in Mexico, which is basically a normal sized neighborhood, there are probably 15 churches. Some separated by only a few houses. And I am telling you the truth that I have had my neighbors confide in my that their pastor instructed them not to speak to their own neighbors who attended a different church. I'm pretty sure my jaw hit the floor when I heard that one for the first time. 

That's not a picture of the Jesus I know. Jesus reached across the lines between Pharisees and "the worst of sinners." It made the religious uncomfortable. And it still does today. When a new church moves into the city claiming to be something "unlike any churches in the area," instead of being offended at the fact that they just lumped you in with some unspoken group (or stole your original tagline *ahem*)... instead let's celebrate the fact that the gospel is being spread and that the need for more churches is still a THING!

That's what Valley United is. A Valley United. A Nation United. Believers United for the sake of the gospel. Because really, isn't that the point? The church isn't inside the four walls of an ornate chapel or a renovated warehouse. The church is a body. It's moving, it's living. It's at work on Mondays and the gym on Tuesdays. It's out to dinner and running around the park. It's feeding the hungry and boarding a plane to Africa.

One of my favorite speakers at the conference was a guy named Lucho Llanca, AD of the area's Young Life (his name alone makes him cool.) When Lucho was a little boy, a crazy gringo (white guy) knocked on his door and said something to the effect of "comida. gratis. ping pong mesa. mi casa." Food. free. pingpong table. my house. And I laughed because there are times I sound JUST LIKE THAT. He said that all he knew was some crazy gringo had a ping pong table and he wanted to play on it. Over time, this crazy gringo invested in this group of boys and taught them about Christ. Lucho's life was changed forever. He said that he wishes he could find this crazy guy and tell him how his life had been impacted through him. But he can't. Instead, he can be that crazy guy who loves people and shares the gospel.

This story was a source of encouragement for me because I am the crazy gringa. I speak the broken spanish. I want to share the love of Jesus with my neighbors. I want to pour into their lives. I love having the kids over at my house every day jumping on the trampoline because it's not about the trampoline. It's about community. It's about investment. It's about Jesus.

Throughout the conference, three areas were stressed: Marriage, Family, and Community. You can't be a missionary in the community if you're not first ministering to your spouse and your kids or your parents or your roommates, whatever you're family might look like. It's starts with the people who are in your life every day. Josh Stockel, a pastor at Logos Community Church implored us to not waste our lives by forgetting that it doesn't end at salvation. It begins there. Following Him is in the living.

Have you ever experienced a community of division? Are you experiencing it now? How can we make the change? I truly believe God is convicting the hearts of many on this subject and I see the tides changing. I see more unity. I really do. Let's be THE CHURCH. Not A church.

Are you in the South Texas area? Heck even if you're not, this conference is for you! Follow The Valley United on twitter to be informed for the next conference!