Last year was a tough year for me. I dealt with some severe allergies and I spent the year, with God’s help, changing my lifestyle and reclaiming my health. For that reason, I haven’t posted anything in over a year. However, I really want to start writing again. I feel like I’m getting rusty and I want to continue to grow as a writer. I also feel that each of us has God-given gifts and we need to use them. If we do, our lives and the lives of those around us will be enriched.
After a year of literary silence, there are so many things to write about and it’s really hard to choose a subject. However, since I like to write about things that mean something to me; things that I have personal experience with, that does narrow things down a bit.
My pastor, (and husband) has been preaching for the last several weeks on the topic: “I love my church.” The messages have been encouraging and challenging and have inspired me today to write about the church. I’m speaking from my own perspective here. I won’t be quoting Barna or any other statistician or any theologians. I just want to take some of my random thoughts and organize them a little in regard to this subject. Maybe this will help me have a better perspective on what the church is and maybe it will help someone else who is disillusioned about the church.
I’ve been going to church since I was five years old and through the years, it has been my perception that the people who went to church were Christians, Christ-followers. It was my perception that they used The Bible as their compass and their lifestyles were morally pure. Church, in my mind, was a safe place to be and everyone at church could be trusted. Naive? Yes. But I really had great experiences in church and the people I went to church with became like a second family to me.
So here’s the deal. I’m old enough now and have seen enough foolishness to know that my previous perception is not entirely accurate. Not everyone who goes to church is a Christian. Not everyone who goes to church is a Christ-follower. Not everyone who goes to church lives a life that is morally pure; and they may not even read The Bible except when they’re in church. But wait! Before you start dropping the “H” word, I’m not quite finished with my stream of consciousness yet.
Here are 5 things I’ve learned from being in church for almost four decades:
1. Not everyone who goes to church has it all figured out. (In fact, no one does.)
2. Not every churchgoers’ life is a mirror of The Bible or the life of Christ.
3. Many people who attend church are miserable. They’ve tried living life without any direct input from God and their life is a mess.
4. Everyone who goes to a church has a story and they are all different. So it doesn’t work to make assumptions about people.
5. Not everyone who goes to church is going to be a good influence in your life or lead you to closer to God.
It’s also been my experience, that many people expect the pastor to live everyone’s life and call out everyone’s short-comings, while other people expect the pastor to just look past sin in the name of love or grace. There is a balance here and it isn’t easy to achieve. Church leadership, MUST present God’s Word to the church. The Bible instructs us not to add to God’s Word and not to take from it. It’s God’s Word, not ours and I for one HATE to be misquoted! Don’t you?
So, what’s the bottom line here? Why go to church at all? Because the Bible instructs us to do so:
Hebrews 10:25 New Living Translation
“Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near.”
Church is a place to start or strengthen your journey of faith. It’s a place for the hurting and the broken. It’s a family. It’s people, all kinds of people, linking arms and saying, “Let’s encourage each other to be closer to Jesus today than we were yesterday. Let’s hold each other accountable and warn each other when we are making choices that have the potential to separate us from God.” It’s a place where God’s Word, (all of it) should be taught. It’s a place where people should be encouraged to develop their God-given talents.
And by the way, the pastor of the church isn’t perfect, the pastor’s family isn’t perfect and neither are the people who attend. So don’t let the thought that you aren’t good enough keep you from church, because no one is good enough and they never will be.
And on the opposite side of the coin, don’t assume the pastor is overlooking sin when he doesn’t respond to, or correct people the way you think he should. Like I said earlier, there is a balance here and it’s possible that the pastor knows more about the situation than you do. It’s possible that the pastor is working through an issue with that person. I’ve been guilty of this. I have pretty strong convictions when it comes to my lifestyle and it’s hard for me to spend time with people who live in a way that contrary to the way I feel God wants me to live. I have to check my attitude constantly and ask myself if I really love people or not. I am not talking about judging here. The Bible is clear about sin. God has defined sin in His word and He’s the judge, not me. However, if I live in a way that is contrary to God’s word, I am sinning. If you are living in a way that is contrary to God’s Word, you are sinning. And sin separates us from God. I am talking about loving someone who is sinning. Should we do that? Yes. If we want to follow God’s example we should:
John 15:13 New Living Translation
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Romans 5:8 New Living Translation
“But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
Some people have always tried to do the right thing, but maybe they struggle with pride. Some people struggle with life controlling issues. Some people struggle with insecurity and have never felt loved by anyone, even God. Whatever camp you’re in, or whether you’re in another camp entirely, there is a place in church for all of us, because we ALL have sinned and we ALL need Jesus, The Savior.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
And The Savior says we need each other. He doesn’t recommend living this life alone. That’s because we all have an enemy, Satan, and his mission is to steal, kill and destroy. We make his job a lot easier when we withdraw from the church, (believers.)
Take a fresh look at the church. Lay aside your past experience or your inexperience. Do your homework. Call a few churches and ask questions or visit and grab a brochure. Check the church’s website. Find out what they believe. Ask The Lord to guide you. He will. However, you don’t need to be in a church to begin a relationship with God. You can do that right now, wherever you’re at.
1 John 1:9
“But if we confess our sins to Him (Jesus), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I hope you have begun that relationship. I have and I would never again want to live without Jesus. I also don’t want to live without God’s people. We need each other.
God bless you,