If you’ve been hurt by the church, then it’s likely the thought of ever going back to church again is right up there with oh, say getting your teeth pulled (sorry, Honey.) (My husband’s a dentist. I have to watch dental jokes and comparisons.).
I need to confess I once felt the same. Honestly, when those wounds were still raw, the thought of ever stepping foot inside another church again was enough to make me physically ill.
We (Jason and I) talked it over incessantly. “Maybe we could just follow Jesus and just not go to church?” we asked each other.
And for a while there, that’s exactly what we did.
But then it just felt wrong because we’re called to be a part of the body of Christ. And the body of Christ is the church.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25
“…so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” – Romans 12:5
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12 (and if you go on to read to verse 31, you’ll be especially convicted)
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:27
I don’t think it’s good, or healthy, to pull-out of the church entirely. While I certainly understand what it’s like to not want to attend church after you’ve had a rough experience, I don’t think it’s really what Jesus wants us to do.
So I had to check myself by asking these questions:
1. Are our expectations too high? Am I relying too much on the church itself to fill the hole only a personal relationship with Jesus can fill? After all, the church isn’t Jesus – it has limitations to what it can do.
2. Is there a root of bitterness within me that’s preventing me from trying another church?
3. Is this good for our children?
After processing these answers, it was abundantly clear: we needed to find a new church. Going to church is one piece of the faith puzzle.
I grew-up quite a bit during this process – as tough experiences inevitably cause us to do. I discovered some hard truths about myself:
1. I had made the church into an idol. I viewed it as more of a country club than I did a hospital.
2. My decision on where to attend church was based on superficial things.
3. I had become slightly bitter towards the church.
4. Not going to church is not the best choice for our children, who’s faith is still developing. And joke’s on me – my faith is still developing, too.
Those are tough to write but I’m being real here.
We ever so slowly started to attend another church. It was the opposite of everything I had ever experienced in a church.
Whereas I was used to going to beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing churches, this one wasn’t so beautiful. It did well with the space it had, but it wasn’t the cathedral-like atmosphere I had grown accustomed to. There were no pews. We sat on folding chairs. And the carpet is just generic carpet with coffee stains here and there.
Whereas I was used to massive children’s programming and over-the-top outreaches, this one was much smaller.
And whereas I was used to a “prim-and-proper”-ness of church attendees, this one had members sporting tattoos and piercings.
Truth be told: it called me to the mat on the own superficial-ness (not a word) of my faith.
Because while the building may not be beautiful, it was beautifully filled with the Holy Spirit. And I’m also pretty sure that Jesus didn’t care if His churches had new carpet and pretty pews.
Because while the children’s programming is small, it’s larger-than-life for our children. It’s intimate. They love it.
And because while the people aren’t necessarily of the “prim-and-proper” type, it doesn’t mean they are less-than. In fact, these are some of the most in-tune with Jesus people I’ve ever met.
It’s certainly not perfect because, get this . . . I also learned there’s no such thing as a perfect church. The church is grossly debilitated because it’s run by people who are disabled by the flesh.
But it is a place we can grow. A place we can be with other followers. And a place our children can learn and grow, too.
If we had allowed our own fear to hold us back, we would still be sitting at home on Sunday mornings. I wouldn’t have learned those hard truths about my old self and I would have taught my children that the body isn’t important.
And we would have been wrong – because the body is important.
What tips would you offer to those who are looking for a new church?