I’ve read numerous articles about how the church-age is coming to an end. I’ve seen the opinion-pieces from those who have decided that home church is what’s for them or spending time alone is their thing. There have been times when I’ve wondered if those would be good options for our family. All the reasons that go into making that decision are personal and complicated and I don’t fault those that go that way, but I’ve come to the conclusion that being a part of a local church (little “c”) is important for our family right now.
She might have issues, but she’s my family.
You have a list a mile long of the faults of your local church? I know. Some are quirky, minor things and some are major issues. Here’s what is helping me when I feel frustrated by these things: I’ve started to view my local congregation’s quirks sort of like our family viewed my great-uncle Homer. Are you with me? Uncle Homer would do and say some shocking things from time to time, but we overlooked it because he was family. That’s how it is with family. We see each other at our shocking, lowest times and we still love them.
This doesn’t mean we overlook abusive behavior or things that are truly hindering our spiritual growth. It just means that, a lot of times, we offer grace because soon enough we’ll be the ones saying or doing the really stupid thing and we’re going to desperately need our family to forgive us.
Family says, “I know you messed up, but I still love you.” We watch each other grow up and expect there will be missteps.
Worshiping with my local church isn’t just for me.
I could be perfectly happy (at least for a little while) to just be with our little family. That’s sounds nice. The problem with that is it’s easy to forget that not everyone has a built in community. I shouldn’t attend church just because it meets a need I have. One of the reasons we show up on Sunday mornings is to be there for others. The people with no family. The mom who needs someone to hold her crying baby. The person who wonders if anyone notices if they are there or not. They need me to show up.
There is no such thing as the perfect church.
Goldilocks makes for a fun children’s story, but her approach doesn’t fly for church. Too big. Too small. Too quiet. Too loud. I’ve found the times I’m dissatisfied with church are when I’m thinking about the local congregation as a way to meet all my needs. When I view it as a product I’m buying, I look with a critical eye.
When I approach church as a consumer, that bowl of porridge that’s “just right” today might not look as great tomorrow. And it seems especially disappointing when we see the fabulous porridge someone else has. There comes a point when we need to decide what our absolute deal-breakers are and as long as those things aren’t compromised, stop worrying about all the minor things.
(I would apply this to someone who has been attending a church for a while. It’s a different story for the person new to a community. Their search truly is “shopping” for a church because they are still figuring out what works best for their family. 🙂 That’s a different situation than the person chronically dissatisfied where they are at.)
There is no substitute for seeing God’s work in the lives of others over time.
Your local church isn’t the only place you can see, first-hand, lives that are changed, but it’s the easiest place to see it in all ages and stages of life. The church I attended for a decade while living in Minnesota had a prayer group that consisted of a handful of women. Celeste, Jan, Donna, Kathy, Rose, Suzanne. . .Many of them were there before I started attending and they are still there now. Decades of their lives have been spent there. The prayers they have prayed and the stories they could tell of generations they prayed through birth, school years, marriages, health concerns, and many things only they know. That’s a gift you get for planting yourself in a local church.
“Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults.”- John Calvin