Today, I want to talk about church. This post has been brewing in my heart for a while, and it may be just the tip of the iceberg that is my passionate heart for this subject. I really have no idea where this will go, but for now, I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and write.
It's one single word, and yet it can carry so many different meanings. For me, it means family. It means a safe place to come and worship the Lord with an incredible body of believers consisting of people who have truly become my brothers and my sisters. It means a place to come and meet my Father, a place where I can always find His presence, His grace and His love.
For some, it means the same. And I rejoice in that. But I also know that for some, that word carries pain. For some, that word brings up feelings of condemnation and shame. For some, the word "church" is associated with people full of judgement and hypocrisy. For some, the word simply means a weekly obligation. An item to check off the checklist, and little more.
Today, I want to invite you to ponder what you feel when you think of the word "church." I want to tell you that your feelings are valid. Your feelings are valid because I don't doubt that they come from legitimate experience. I don't doubt that some churches are filled with judgement and hypocrisy. I don't doubt that some churches do treat the Sunday message as an item to check off the weekly checklist. And if you have been a part of those congregations, or if you have simply witnessed them from afar, then I understand your feelings on church.
The fact of the matter is, the church is made up of us. So what does that mean, exactly? It means that the church is going to be a representation of the people that make up the body. If the people in the body are filled with judgement and hypocrisy, then you, as a member will feel judgement and hypocrisy. If the people in the body simply view Sunday service as nothing more than an item on a checklist, then you, as a member, will perceive that. And if the people in the body are filled with the Holy Spirit, then you, as a member will absolutely feel that, too.
But what's important to remember is that we are all sinners. Jesus loves the church. He died for the church (Ephesians 5: 25-26). But with our human free will, we are perfectly capable of taking something God created with such beauty, and turning it into something it's just not.
You know what else though? With truly surrendering our lives to God, we are perfectly capable of taking the church and turning it into exactly what God created it to be. A place to come and worship the Lord, to hear from the Lord, and a place to love on and be loved by our brothers and sisters.
You know when my life changed? It changed when I stopped looking at the leaders of my church as people who were far above me, and started realizing that they were people just like me. It changed when I realized that the holiness that I craved in their lives could be a part of my life, too. I saw that church wasn't just church for them, it was a family. And I desperately wanted that, so I began serving as a member, and lo' and behold, the body turned into a family for me, too.
Church is important. Yes, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is key. Yes, that is where your salvation comes from, and that is the most important thing on this earth. But a life without community is a lonely life, indeed. And God blessed us with church as a way for us to come together and endure in this marathon called life together.
Friends, if you have had a negative experience with church, then I highly encourage you to try again. It may take time to find the one that's right for you, but I promise you it's out there. The church needs you. You are one of the many parts. You have a special function. You were created to be a part of this beautiful body of believers. There is brokenness in the body, that's for sure. But lucky for us, we have a Savior who's grace covers all of our brokenness.