Nearly every Sunday of my 30+ years has been spent in church.
Some may assume this is out of religious obligation or force of habit. Others may wonder why on earth I would choose to commit to such an outdated, irrelevant institution.
The truth is, sometimes it has just been a religious obligation or force of habit. And sometimes I’ve grown tired of it. But I haven’t ever felt like leaving. Here’s why.
Church is family
Despite what you might have heard or experienced, church is not meant to operate like a business.
Unfortunately, often it is treated just like a business. Perhaps increasingly so in modern times. We have become consumers rather than contributors.
“I’ll come to church, but only if the music is just the way I like it, the chairs are comfy, the preaching is engaging and exciting every single week, everyone agrees with my theology, and nobody offends me.”
In response to people’s consumerist mindsets and (unrealistic) expectations, churches often strive to ‘stay relevant’ (with cringe-worthy results). Yet no matter how much effort is put in, people remain dissatisfied. Pleasing everyone just isn’t possible. It’s also not the goal.
Church is supposed to be a family. Not a building, a business, or a social club. A family. Brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians chapter 2, verse 19)
Family creates healthy identity
When church lives out its true identity as the family of God, it’s a beautiful place to belong. In a healthy family, there’s no need to perform. We have permission to be fully ourselves, and fully known; celebrated in our strengths and covered in our weaknesses. Loved no matter what.
Family provides an environment for intimate relationships to thrive. In these relationships, our value is affirmed and we are championed in our dreams and passions.
While family is by no stretch easy and relationships are often our main source of pain, there’s beauty and unmatched value in the truth that we belong to each other.
Even though sometimes I feel like retreating from everyone and living a ‘just me and God’ existence, the fact is, God often speaks to me through others, and my joy is most fully experienced within relationships.
In my church family, I get to be vulnerable. If I’m battling lies, anxieties, destructive thinking or just going through a difficult time, I know the church is a safe place to be. They are the ones who speak life and encouragement, the ones who pray with me, fight for me, and remind me of truth.
Identity launches me into my destiny
My church family affirm my identity as a powerful daughter of God. From this identity comes the confidence to boldly pursue what God has put on my heart to do.
Church is not just a corporate gathering to worship God, it’s a place for equipping, building and training, so we might become mature in our faith and look more like Jesus every day.
And not just so we can be good little Christians, hanging out in our nice little churches, but so we can go into all the world, preaching the good news in word and deed, with power and love.
The church family is my launching pad into all God has called me to be and to do. It’s a place to find encouragement as well as correction and constructive feedback. It’s a place where I can learn, grow and become effective and powerful in the destiny God has for me.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” – Proverbs chapter 27 vs 17
It’s not perfect, but neither am I
It hardly needs to be said that the church isn’t perfect. It’s a family, made up of people, after all.
People can be downright mean. Theology embraced by other churches can be difficult to have grace and understanding for, and countless frustrations with the way things are run can start to erode the love and value I hold for the church.
But I refuse to jump on the church-bashing bandwagon. The church is the family of God, a beautiful, glorious, diverse expression of who He is. We are called to unity, and criticism only brings division.
Family is a powerful expression of God’s love on earth, so it’s no surprise how severely and continually it is under attack both in our immediate families and in the church. We have to fight to protect and cultivate it. The world needs and is searching for strong, healthy, loving family.
Church isn’t perfect. But I can’t expect it to be, because neither am I. When things are difficult, people offend or hurt me, I choose to stay, knowing there is ALWAYS room for me to learn how to love better, more deeply, more unconditionally. Family don’t just quit on each other.
I keep going to church, because when I said yes to Jesus, I was adopted into his family. And that’s a massive privilege, a debt I could never repay.
Bonnie loves all things old-fashioned, travelling, coffee with friends and being with her family. She is passionate about broken hearts and relationships being restored through the power of vulnerability and honesty with God and others.
Bonnie Dowie’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bonnie-dowie.html