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Made to Belong

Andy Percey introduces his new book exploring the human need to find people who will accept and welcome us, and the sense of greater belonging that church community can offer.

I have been in ministry within Baptist churches here in the UK for over a decade, and one of the most common issues I come across, from people of all ages and backgrounds, both inside and outside the church, is people searching for a place to belong.

I wonder, do they find it in our churches?
Since our earliest days, human beings have sat around the tribal fires and told stories. Stories about where we came from and where we are going; stories about how we belong. We want to not only have the answers to those big questions of life but to share those answers with others, and in that sharing weave ourselves into a richer and more vibrant tapestry. This desire is deeply built into us, more deeply than we are often aware of or can understand.
Perhaps this is why we spend so much of our lives trying to fit in? Why we search to find a group of people who will accept and welcome us.
MadeToBelong AndyPerceyThese are all issues and questions that I have sought to explore in my new book Made to Belong, and have been issues that I have wrestled with in one form or another for most of my life.

Whether it is in the depths of my own heart, my family life, church, the world as a whole, or my relationship with God, there have been questions around where I fit, and how I belong, and the book is an invitation to explore those issues in some of those arenas and more.
We recently had a flyer come through our door entitled ‘Finding Your Tribe’. It was an invitation to women aged 45-65 to make connections with friends in Bath.

Now there are dozens of groups like this around the city, as I am sure there are where you live, and many of them will use similar words like connection or a circle of friendship, but what was it about this language of ‘Tribe’ that meant this flyer was still on my desk weeks later even though I am a man in my thirties?

Because we all want to feel the connection that tribes promise us.  

Whether it is the sports team we follow, or the political party we are affiliated to, or the local community group we attend, all of these groups give us a sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are wanted and included, that we belong.
There is something deep down within us that longs for this, that drives us towards it and has done since the very beginning. We were created in love, to be loved, by the God of love. To not simply 'fit in', but to really belong.  
There seems to have been a rise in this spirit of tribalism in our world today. We see our societies more divided than ever, with less tolerance for and engagement with views that are different to ours, or with people who are different to us. And yet this language of tribe is more popular than ever.
Do you find yourself dissatisfied with your tribe? Does it leave you wanting more?
Tribalism is about building a sense of who you are as separate from another. My team is better than your team; my political party has more answers than your party does.

Belonging is a space where we can both fully receive and fully give who we are, and in that sense it is a space that is open to the other, and transcends the ordinary barriers of tribe.

It is this that we long for, to be able to give feely who we are to those around us, and to receive fully from and connect with them; to hold and to be held.
Ultimately we seek is because we were designed to experience it, to experience that deep sense of connection in the very core of our beings, but so often we settle for less. We are content to simply sign up to the local tribe even though we are still left with that sense of ‘surely there must be more?’
Friends there is more, and this is what Jesus comes to open up within us. Any church or Christian community is not simply a tribe among many, but is a community of invitation to a deeper story and a greater belonging. They are spaces in which we each make that journey to discover that we were made to do more than just fit in but to connect. In the act of giving ourselves freely, and receiving freely from others we not only belong to each other, but to this amazing creation, and to the God who binds it and holds it all together in his unquenchable love.
Andy Percey is the author of ‘Made to Belong: Moving Beyond Tribalism to Find Our True Connection in God’ (Authentic Media 2021).

“These pages will recalibrate your heart, and give you opportunity for self-reflection, theological understanding and practical action.”
– Cathy Madavan, speaker, broadcaster and author.

Made to Belong is available from our online shop


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Baptist Times, 26/02/2021
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