I Used To Go To Church
As a Christian, it is expected for us to have some form of fellowship, to attend church. Sunday morning, we rise, put on clothes we've planned to wear, take a leisurely drive, greet friends and perhaps family, and take our seat in the sanctuary. We are ready to receive God’s message in song and sermon. For many, thinking about that ritual is met with indifference, rejection, or resentment. We appreciate the gesture, because we know that many invitations are given from a caring place. We acknowledge it, and place it in the peripherals of our concerns (if we don’t all together discard it.)
“I used to go to church.”
Most of us have heard this sentence. Some of us have even uttered these words. We used to go to church, often as children with our families. At that time, we had no choice but to pack into the car in our Sunday best and sit through Sunday School, Children’s Church, and the service. There were times when being in church was fun, and we had friends. There were other times when you contemplated the point of getting up on Sunday morning to sit through orations, when you could be lounging at home in your pajamas and catching up on old “Tarzan” movies. That was in the past.
“I just stopped going.”
I just stopped going … because I went away to college…because I got a job and had no time (or interest) in going to church…because I didn't see the point. So we stopped going. For us, there wasn't anything significant or alluring enough to bring us back to the fold. We preferred the lifestyle we had to the superficial sanctity of Sunday soirées. For us, God wasn't real enough to be a part of our real lives. We didn't see him work enough the way Sunday school had built Him up, miraculously manifesting in the lives of people in the Bible. We can’t see Him. We can’t feel Him. We can’t hear Him. Yet, we are supposed to be devoted to Him in blind faith. It isn't enough.
“I've thought about visiting.”
But I didn't dwell on staying. It’s like going to the movies, and we get caught up in the stories. But we know at the end, we’re back in our world, and our emotions, hopes, and wishes scroll away with the credits. We sit there telling ourselves that we’re not moving because we don’t want to get caught in the crowded exodus from the theater. But in truth, we’re not moving because we've been moved - emotionally, spiritually, and we need a moment to get our bearings. In that seat, we can wallow in the story a little longer, but as soon as we rise to leave, each step takes us closer to the bills, the job, the people, the responsibilities…and we would rather hurl ourselves into the screen than crawl back to our lives. We only want to visit church (not stay), because we think that church doesn't follow us out of the sanctuary.
“I don’t believe in church anymore.”
We don’t see how a good God can allow such horror in this world. We can’t grasp why a benevolent Being would allow bad things to happen to good people. We see others around us who religiously get up every Sunday to hear what God will do in their lives, when we haven’t seen Him do anything in ours. What it boils down to is that we don’t believe in church anymore, because we never felt that the church believed in us.
So why should we bother to invite people to church? After all, we expect the polite (and often awkward) excuses, rescinding our offer. It’s the agreement to take us up on our offer that surprises us. Well, we do it, because, at one point or another, we've thought, uttered, or heard those phrases. We get it. And we realize that if we had not come to church, we would have forfeited the abundance of blessings in being part of a fellowship.
We want people to enjoy the relationship we have with others. We want them to experience the joy of selflessly bestowing blessings on others, and being blessed in return. We want them to know that there is a place where they can take a breath and lay down their burdens. We want them to see that it isn't just about stocking up the good things that happen to us, but also not wallowing in the bad. We've known what it’s like to be disappointed, to face hardship, to deal with trials, to overcome tribulations. But we also know that joy comes from being grateful for the good and not spit about the bad. We've all been angry with God. We've all questioned God. At one time or another, we've also abstained from God. We get it.
So why do we bother going to church? Well, because we realize that all the reasons why we stopped going weren't good enough to keep God from coming. When God is silent, He speaks to me through someone in church. When I’m drowning in a whirlpool of life issues and I don’t see God’s hand, He reached out to me through someone in church. When I don’t think God is real enough, someone provides because he felt God wanted him to do something for me. When I don’t understand God, someone reminds me that faith is what matters.
Church isn't perfect, and the people in it are far from perfect. But it’s the perfect place to deal with the reasons why you don’t want to go to church. You may not get the answers you want, but you might just find the blessings you need. No matter what you decide, you can always count on this: We get it.