I’ve had several church experiences. From growing up in a midsized church, to being part of a tiny church plant with my family, to attending a fairly large church, and a small-ish country church, I’ve seen the mess that a church can be, and I’ve seen the beauty that comes from being a part of a local church body. Most of us would probably agree that traditionally, church has been considered a “good” thing.
But you may have heard of a new trend lately being written about in blog posts. The attitude and actions behind the phrase, “I quit the church,” are wide and varied I am sure. I do not pretend to understand or probe the depths of another’s experiences. I do not have it all figured out.
But I do know this: the Church is not a “good” thing. The Church is a glorious thing.
Last summer, I spent six weeks in Ireland, learning about culture and where the people there are spiritually. The church in Ireland has been rejected by most Irish. This makes sense considering one significant factor: the pain experienced by those who have been sexually abused by church leaders. Hearing of this pain causes me to agree that running from such an organization seems logical. Why would anyone want to be a part of a church like that? But the Irish have also begun to throw out not only the “church,” but the “Church.” There is great spiritual darkness in that country, just as there is in much of Europe. Rejection of “traditional church” is a symptom of a heart and mind belief pattern.
If we attend church with the (often deeply rooted) belief that we are attaining God’s favor, our actions will become self-focused and directed. God loves his Church — do I believe this? Do I believe that church is more than a social or moral responsibility? Is it more than just attending a social event where I try to earn the approval of God and others?
Perhaps my view needs re-ordering. Perhaps church attendance is a response of love. I have been greatly, abundantly, deeply loved. Christ died because He loved me, because he loved those who would otherwise be eternally separated from God. If, by God’s transforming work in me, I am able to view the “Church” from God’s perspective, then perhaps I will also be able to view the subsequent local “church” bodies from His perspective as well.
In Hebrews 10:18 the author makes it clear that there is not any sacrifice for sins left. “And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” We do not go to church to make sacrifice for our sins. Instead of making sacrifice in verses 24 and 25, we see clear direction for all believers, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The Church is about worship. One way that we worship is through encouragement: the giving of courage to one another because we are dearly loved by God. This worship draws me away from what I can receive from the church and focuses on how I can demonstrate God’s love through encouraging my fellow “loved-ones.”
Because of God’s love we are able to see, in the mess that can sometimes be “church,” God’s glorious grace, as HE transforms His Church.
Story by Katelyn Mithoefer | Staff Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org