Church. What does that say to you? A pretty building? Somewhere to go for special occasions? A boring place you were dragged to as a child and vowed to avoid as far as humanly possible? The house of God? A special place? Somewhere you love to go and would spend all your time there if you could?
We have just one word, where they used to have two. We tend to think of the building, or perhaps the Sunday service. But the dominant meaning when the Bible talks about church was the people.
A lot of people are put off by church. And no wonder, as it can be dull if you have no special relationship with the Person who is the focus of the whole thing, God. But even if you do, that doesn’t seem to mean that church is the most fun place to be.
It ought to, right?
If it doesn’t seem to hit the spot, whose fault is that? Is it mine, for failing to have the right attitude? The people in charge of the church for failing to engage with me? The devil?
When I was a child and a teenager, I went to church because I had to, because my parents went. It was compulsory, like school. It was not so bad, I had friends who went with me. It didn’t start quite as early as school. But it was always a duty.
I still went for the first year I went to uni, unless there was something else I really wanted to go to on the Sunday, but the church I picked was not friendly and welcoming. I’d go in, sit and listen, then leave. I think the pastor would shake hands with people on their way out, but that was it. I did go to the C.U. meetings, which were better. But this post is about church.
In my second year I started to get ill and was skipping class, so I must have also skipped church. And I was too ill to go much when I had to go home and live back with my parents. I was quite glad to not bother. And not just because I was too constantly tired to do anything anyway.
Over a decade later, when I came to love God, for various reasons I couldn’t become a regular attender at a local church and a few months later I was living in Norway for the second half of the year.
When I returned to England, I moved into a flat by myself and was free to find a church to join. The first local church I tried was very welcoming, and I have been going there ever since. I had been expecting it to be a chore, a duty, but to my surprise I found I loved it!
It wasn’t so different from the church I grew up in; it was me which had changed.
But then, not long after getting married and moving even closer to the church, it had a massive rupture and almost all the leadership left! As part of the Loyal Remnant, we threw ourselves into doing whatever was needed to keep it going. But through that first year I lost my joy at attending. I guess it got gradually eroded by a sense of responsibility or something, I don’t really know what or why.
People would say that always happens, that new convert fervour wearing off. But I’m not sure that is either what it is or that such a thing is right! But it hasn’t come back, even though we got a pastor. Things are still difficult and the church is not growing, maybe that is the reason, I don’t know. Or it might be me. I have been struggling with my energy levels lately.
It has made me consider why church is important, even whether it is. There is an internet church, maybe I could join that. But I still think there a lot to be learned from church. It is my family in Christ. I feel it is a commitment, like marriage, but one based on love, again like marriage.
There are many reasons to stick with it, which I have run out of room to discuss today! Maybe some other Sunday.
But finally, I was glad I went today. Not to the morning service – the clocks changed and it would be even earlier! But I went to the evening Bible study. There were only four of us, but that didn’t matter. We worshipped God and looked into His word about how we are His adopted children, which is mind-blowingly wonderful! Not slaves, not servants, not just worshippers, but His children. I look forward to when I can live with Him in heaven!
I felt tired and not keen to go when I set off. But I was so glad I went.
What are your thoughts on church?