For some reason this topic has been on my mind lately. Actually, I think I wrote most of this blogpost in my head while sitting in church last weekend!
I was born and raised in the church. I went to the same church for about 18 years. After I graduated from high school I met the man that would eventually become my husband and we began searching for a church that had a young adult group that we liked. We bounced around for a few years, went sporadically for a while and then settled in our current church that we have been a part of for about 7 years.
Why did I want to talk about this with you? I think because for a lot of people "church" is actually kind of a dirty word. I recently read an article that gave some super high statistic about how many young people who grow up in church leave the church once they graduate high school. I've heard many of the reasons myself. In fact, I've gone through periods in my life where I've walked away from church. I never stopped believing, I just stopped going! And do you know what? It was never about anyone else. It wasn't the church's fault. It wasn't the people that went to church. It was just about me. There were times in my life that I wasn't really walking with the Lord and I didn't feel as close to Him as a result. In the long run though there was always something pulling me back. ( I say "something" but I know Who that was!) The longer I was away from church, the emptier I felt and the harder it was for me to feel connected with the Lord.
What do I get out of church? First of all it is an opportunity to be surrounded by people who share similar beliefs and interests to me. My husband and I love Fresno State football. We buy season tickets every year (a financial splurge for sure) because it's a chance to spend time together doing something we love. We've had the same seats for years and we love the people we sit with... they're our football family! I have friends that are music lovers and live for going to concerts. They are surrounded by people who love the same music - maybe even more than they do! They are energized by the songs and the emotions the music evokes in them. In college I was a Social Work major and I was so happy once I began my major courses. I was finally surrounded by students who had the desire to learn about the same things and teachers who had a wealth of knowledge to give me. Do you guys get where I'm going with this? These are the same reasons I go to church.
I am by no means a Bible scholar. The more I learn, the more interested I am in knowing more. My pastor, like my college professors with their field of study, has studied the Word. He has spent years of his life dedicated to understanding God's Word. He has sat with mentors for countless hours asking questions and growing his faith. Will I always agree with 100% of what he says? Probably not. I think an important part of faith is continuously asking questions and seeking answers and forming our own personal relationship with God. Did I always agree with my professors in college? Heck no! Did I stop going to school because I didn't particularly like some of my teachers? Of course not. I have been to churches where I just could not warm up to the pastor. At one church the pastor talked so fast I couldn't follow him from one thought to the next. So I tried another church! At one church (being honest here) I found the pastor really boring to listen to. The church that I attend currently has a head pastor and three associate pastors and I love listening to each and every one of them, it just took time to find the right fit. I find inspiration in the messages on Sunday, even when I have heard the stories before, it is amazing how an old message will find new meaning for me in my life.
Another reason that I enjoy going to church is for the worship. The Bible says that we were created to worship the Lord! I am one of those weirdos that can't be still when I hear music. I love to dance and have spent my fair share of Saturday nights in the club shakin' my tail feather. Yep, I just said that! I don't dance like that in church people, don't worry! But I do love to worship the Lord. I feel music deep down inside and I feel my heart being drawn closer to the Lord as I sing His praises. I notice that the more worship music I listen to throughout the week as well, the better my mood and attitude are. It makes a difference! By the way, there are many ways to use our gifts to worship the Lord. I love that my church provides a wealth of service opportunities in our community that give me the chance to love on others.
I also want to address something that I hear a lot. One of the most popular reasons I hear for not going to church is that the people in church are hypocrites. These Christians don't practice what they preach. They sit in church in Sunday morning but have barely sobered up from Saturday night (that may have been me a time or two back in the day). They smile and shake hands with the people sitting around them but gossip about those same people as soon as they walk out the doors. They sing the worship songs but curse like sailors every other day of the week. I get that that is a hard pill to swallow but let me ask you a question... should you give up pursuing your relationship with God because of choices that others make? I guarantee that you will not find a church full of perfect patrons and that, my friends, is a GOOD thing! Christ spent much of his free time with these very people. He came to seek and to save the lost, not the already perfect. The people that are in church but are struggling to love others the way they should or are not living a life consistent with what they say they believe are just as much in need of a savior as anyone else. I beg you, please don't let the behaviors of others rob you of your opportunity to grow in the Lord. Are there churches out there that have gotten off track and are unhealthy places to be? Absolutely. Are they all that way? Absolutely not! I encourage you to find a place that you fit and make a habit out of attending regularly.
Can you have a relationship with God and never attend church? Sure. The Bible doesn't say in John 3:16 that whosever believes in Him and goes to church, shall have everlasting life. It doesn't say in John 14:6 I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me and the church! It is not one of the Ten Commandments that you go to church every week. It does say that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. Speaking for myself I think it would be truly hard to accomplish this on my own without ever being a part of a body of other believers. The Bible says that we as believers are a community. We are created for relationships and fellowship with the body of Christ is vital for our well being and growth. It is important to be connected. Our faith is personal but it's not meant to be private. Like I talked about above, we surround ourselves in every other aspect of life with people who have similar interests, values and passions, why wouldn't we do that for our faith life?
I leave you with this verse that I really like and I think is appropriate:
Ephesians 2:19 Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God's very own family, citizens of God's country and you belong in God's household with every other Christian!
Have a great weekend!