Why Go To Church?

A few days ago, I read a blog by a woman whose husband died last month from cancer. She writes that as a widow, she doesn’t care if her church is trendy or if it has a coffee bar. She is hurting and she needs Jesus.  You can read it here. It’s worth the time. I happen to agree with her.  Even if you don’t, she makes some very good points.  (BTW this is not a rebuttal blog at all.  She got me thinking, that’s all.)

Being in church leadership, I understand why churches are resorting to cafes and hipster tactics. As leadership, we are told again and again how the millennials and everyone else is leaving the church en masse or not entering it in the first place. People think church is archaic and irrelevant in today’s world. They don’t have time for church. People have been wounded by the church and people professing to be Jesus followers. There are all sorts of reasons why people don’t go to church. But hey, Starbucks is full on a Sunday morning. So I get why churches are deciding to incorporate the trendy into Sunday morning tradition. Sometimes you just want to get people to come out because they have to be inside to hear about Jesus. To meet Him.

Thankfully we have the freedom to choose the church we attend. Some of us are visual learners so a video or drama helps us learn better. Some of us learn by writing notes during the sermon. Some of us learn by doodling through the sermon – our hands busy while our minds take in the words. Churches don’t all need to be the exact replica of one type of church. We were all created unique by a very big God. It’s okay if our churches are different from each other.  As long as Jesus is our priority.

Some will argue that no, they don’t need to be in church. They can learn about Jesus elsewhere. In nature. In other relationships. I would agree but just like church, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. Our relationship with God is not one dimensional. We need it all; nature, godly relationships and church.

There’s one other thing. I know it’s hard to believe but some people encounter Jesus for the first time ever in a church!!! I know, right?

The one thing that must happen in church is Jesus is preached. The Word of God must be taught and then lived out. Especially by those in leadership. Jesus must be present in order to be experienced.

To be honest though, I’m like everyone else. I don’t always want to go to church. Sometimes it’s just a single Sunday. Other times it’s been for a season. There are a number of reasons why. But after reading this blog, I have to ask myself, Why am I going to church? As a pastor’s wife, I kinda have to. That’s one reason. But that really isn’t good enough for me.

Why do I go to church? That question coincided with my Lent reading from Margaret Feinberg’s #Beloved study of John. I was a day behind so the passage was from John 5. It’s about the man who sits beside the pool waiting for the water to be stirred. He can’t get himself in because he is paralyzed. Jesus comes to him and asks him a bizarre question. “Do you want to get well again?” (John 5:6 Phillips) Really? Of course he wants to get well!

 

Jesus’ question had nagged at me throughout the day. It was a main point in Margaret’s blog about the reading too. After reading the widow’s blog about church, I put the two questions together. Why am I even going to church? Do I want to get well again?  I think the two are very connected.

Even though the church has many faults, God still wants us there. It is a place of fellowship and community that is centred around Him. There is healing and hope in hearing about other’s people’s journeys. It’s one of the widow’s main points about church. She wants to hear about people’s own stories of God not what the flavour of coffee is. She’s absolutely right. It’s through our stories that we get to know God better. That it becomes personal. One of the places this should happen is our churches. (Sometimes the leadership gets their priorities mixed up.)

It also is a place of learning. The pastor has been taught to teach the bible. More than one message I have heard in a lifetime of sermons has cut me to the close. Changed me.

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Do I want to be healed? Do I really? Or would I rather just sit by the pool and make excuses? Put up my walls and shrug, “Oh well, guess that’s not for me?”

Do you want to get well again?  He’s asking us today that very same question.

Yes I do. I think that’s why I don’t leave church. It’s not perfect but at the moment it’s what we’ve got.

It’s also a place I have encountered Jesus more than once. Like in ancient times,when Jesus taught in the Temple, His presence is still in our churches today when we invite Him to come, bringing healing and power. It comes through His Word, through people acting as His hands and feet and through the testimony of His people.  As I head out to church, a part deep inside hopes to meet Jesus there as I stop and sit. I probably will have to surrender my own will. I may have to let people help me, carrying me to the pool. I may have to take down my protective walls, but He’s there waiting.

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Me. You. We just need to come.

Do you want to get well again?

Forget the Pity Party, It’s Time to Join the Real Party

It’s been one of those mornings. It started with a list of things I hadn’t done. I hadn’t gotten the reeds for my son’s musical instrument so he couldn’t play. The rabbit’s nails need clipping and we’d been reminded for weeks. Three to be precise. I could see the invisible shake of my son’s head.

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The conversation took on a life of it’s own in my own mind. I know he’s thinking to himself, “What is wrong with you? You can’t even get it together! I am never going to be like that!” In this imaginary conversation I began to defensively list why things weren’t getting done. Thankfully I kept it to myself.

I dropped them off and drove home feeling very inadequate as a parent and an adult. I sat down to read a blog that’s supposed to encourage but instead I walked away defeated and guilty.  I felt like the worst mom ever. Ever read something that’s supposed to lift you up but instead you feel like you got sucker punched?

Things were spiralling downwards pretty fast and I had a headache to boot. The day was about to go in the toilet. Ever have one of those days? Maybe today?

But wait! There is good news!

There are some days where God decides that He’s going to intervene immediately. Today was one of those days. I hope it is for you too.

I sat down to read Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. These were the opening words:

“Be on guard against the pit of self-pity. When you are weary or unwell, this demonic trap is the greatest danger you face.” (p.56)

She goes on to say that by praising God and thanking Him, we can combat those feelings and stay away from that particular cliff. That by staying close to Jesus (remembering He is near, knowing His Word and keeping it on our lips) we keep our distance from said cliff.
Wow! It was like God was snapping His fingers in my face and telling me to wake up and get with the program! Not only was He telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself but He gave me a recipe to win over it.

I stopped and looked at my situation. God had brought healing and wholeness in my life through different people and courses. My mothering had changed FOR THE BETTER. The path set out before us is totally different than one ten years ago. I am thankful for that. Then God reminded me that I have some very good friends and kind people all around me. I am thankful for them. That today of all days, I am surrounded by blessings from God.
Gratitude crashed that self-pity party. You can’t be thankful and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. It doesn’t work.

It was also a reminder that some days God wants to celebrate with you and He’s not going to put up with lies and garbage. This weekend is a big celebration here at our house. It’s Book Launch weekend and the real party plans are in place. I have much to be grateful for and God reminded me of that too. It’s not a time to get wrapped up in fear and self-pity. (It’s never a good time for that!) It’s a time for festivities and God wants to join us in those times too.

 

I believe He delights over us with singing at all times, good and bad, but how much sweeter must it be in the good? (Zeph 3:17) He wants us to let go of self-pity, fear, feelings of self-loathing and just celebrate Him and what He has done for us! It’s a time for joy and I want to be a part of that! The blessings are many if we look for them and put aside our own pity parties.

 

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I’m proud of the accomplishment of pursuing a dream. But the real celebration is the faithfulness of God. Ten years is long time. I would have quit but He had a plan. The unravelling of this plan and the excitement of being able to witness what HE is going to do is plenty excuse to throw a party!

What are you celebrating today with God?