Let’s get real. There are many, many Christians out there that struggle going to church on a Sunday. You can’t just tell me it’s because they’re rebellious or whatever. In any given week, I speak to dozens of Christians from different gatherings where they express the same thoughts. At best going to church is something to do on a Sunday morning but it’s boring. The way we do church is very “one way.” We sit, stand, sit, listen to a speech from a person who we don’t really know about a book hardly any of us have learnt to actually read… We give money to an organisation because we think it’s what we’re supposed to do, we stand around the old dirty coffee urn and talk about the movies and how work was during the week… And at very best we go home with maybe a positive one-liner that we’ll forget by the next day like “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” We’re encouraged for all of Monday before reality comes crashing down on us and God’s wonderful plan looks more like broken despair then it does the upbeat abundant life that we’re told about. Church, as it is often done today, seems so out of touch with reality and out of touch with how it looks in the Bible. One can come and go from church for their entire lives without lifting a finger to love other people, without ever learning how to read the Bible for ourselves. We end up equating the Christian life being completed by going to a meeting for an hour or two per week.
It’s no wonder then that even myself, one who has (at least in my eyes) a high ecclesiology, who stresses the importance of going to Sunday meetings and recognises the God-ordained life-changing event that is church finds it incredibly difficult to find himself at home in one. In the entire time that I’ve been a Christian, there have only been two churches that I’ve felt that I belonged and content in. The first one was a church on the Sunshine Coast and the second was in Brisbane. The two churches couldn’t be any more different from one another, yet I felt at home in them because I believe for three excellent reasons.
1. They valued other people more than themselves. One church had the motto “people matter.” That rings true throughout everything they do. From the gym to the cafe, to the swimming pool to the church on a Sunday, this church has built a community where people feel at home. Where they can kick their shoes off, take a deep breath and try to pick up the pieces as they wander through this broken world. Sometimes they loved people so much that at times the line blurred between who were genuine Christians and who wasn’t. But I get it. When you love people so much, it can sometimes be challenging to draw distinctions because you want to always believe the best about them. My Church in Brisbane, on the other hand, was way more traditional. No community centre, no cafe, no swimming pool. Yet they carried your burdens and genuinely prayed for you. They were concerned about your holiness and love for God as well as your deep hurts and pains (1 Peter 4:8, John 15:12).
2. They loved the Bible. When I started going to the first church, they preached through the Bible in a year, twice. I got a great feed upon God’s Word and always walked away, knowing that God was speaking. The other church exposited the Scriptures with precision and clarity. Even on topics, I’d generally disagree with them on, I walked away, feeling God loved me and that He’d never forsake me. I can’t stress this enough, the importance and centrality of the Scriptures for a church. However, and this is true of almost every church I’ve been to, while in theory, they put the Bible into the hands of the people, and they encouraged the congregation to live by it there was no continuation or application on this through the rest of the week apart from a homegroup (Acts 17:11, Colossians 3:16).
3. You felt God. At both churches, I regularly experienced the presence of God. Whether it was through the sermons, the sacraments, or through the people, God moved, and God made Himself known to His people. It was sanctifying, transformational and pushed me forward into the presence of God (John 17:3, 1 John 4:16).
So what’s my point in all this?
- Be merciful to those without a church. Likely, they’ve never experienced the above 3 things in a church.
- If you’re between churches take heart, these churches exist. Genuine love for God, the Word, and for others do abound.
- Finding the perfect church is like drinking the perfect cup of coffee. It doesn’t exist. No matter who you talk to, they’ve always had better. Instead, start brewing it yourself.