Church life can be rough. Like so many people, I have been offended by pastors, disappointed in elders, and accused by fellow church-goers. The Bible has been used as a weapon of humiliation in church. Small groups have been tools of exclusion in church. Music has been a source of tension in church. For these and many reasons, people flee.
I get it. The most hurtful thing that ever happened to me occurred many churches ago when I tried to share with my pastor a list of scriptures about the love of God. He told me to “burn ’em.” Needless to say, I fled not long after that.
In spite of experiencing this and other annoyances in churches, I never gave up on my quest to find a good church. Here are four reasons why:
1. Attending church is about Jesus not people. People have flaws, but I go to church because of Jesus. He has never offended me, nor broken my heart. He has never been a hypocrite, nor caused me harm. I have never attended church simply because I was seeking out godly friends. I am a friend of God. I go to church because HE is there.
2.The church belongs to Jesus: The scriptures say Jesus gave his life for the church (Ephesians 5) and that he is coming back for his church (Revelation 19). The church is important to Jesus. Since HE is important to ME, I go to church. I know modern churches don’t resemble the church of “Bible times,” but there was plenty of conflict then just as now. Like when widows were neglected in the food distribution (Acts 6). Jesus died for this and all the messiness of church life. I’m willing to help clean up the messes rather than avoid them.
3.The church can be like family. I’ve been spurned by family members only to turn to sisters and brothers in Christ who love me unconditionally. Churches are some of the most polarizing places on the planet, but they are also some of the most welcoming. Ask around. I bet your friends have found a church that feels like home.
4.The church offers me a compass. The Bible is like a GPS for my life, and good Bible teaching has minimized my personal wandering. After a frenzied work week, we all need quiet moments of worship and prayer to calm our minds. By serving in church, we discover our gifts and find our purpose. Everything I am and all the blessings I know, I owe to Christ and the goodness of his church… even the churches where I hurt the most.
I know the pain suffered in a church is some of the worst we can feel. People who harm in the name of God do wound us deeply, but not irreparably. God stands ready to heal us if we take a step toward the place where healing so often happens: the church.
I came across a quote recently that may help you as you sort out your relationship to the church:
This month, as you remember the Christmas story, remember the wise men who traveled quite a distance to bestow gifts upon the Christ child. How far are you willing to travel – literally and figuratively – to offer Christ the gift of you? He’s not in a manger anymore. He’s in the church. If you can go to the Christmas Eve service, maybe you can go every week, all year.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.