There have been a couple times in my life when I stopped going to church. First, when I was in high school I had a faith freak-out because the thought hit me that there’s no way God could love each human personally. That’d make him HUGE. I wasn’t sure he could be that big.
The second time was when my dad died. I told God I still believed in him but that I was over it and couldn’t see what He’d ever done for me. So I stopped going to church for a long time.
In both of these instances, I stopped going to church because I wasn’t sure about God. But I also stopped going to church because at church people know you.
I didn’t want to discuss my doubts about God with people because I didn’t think they’d understand. I didn’t want to discuss my grief with people and have them look at me like I was a ticking time bomb (although I was totally a ticking time bomb). After my dad died and I finally did start going to church again, I purposely chose a big church far from the city I live in so I wouldn’t run into people I recognize and I could slip in and out without being noticed.
Somehow, I now work at church.
I don’t just kind-of have to be there. I actually have to be there.
Some Sundays are so fast-paced that it’s hard for me to take the time to stop and worship, to remember why I’m there in the first place. Some Sundays I run into someone, in the midst of thousands, that I’d rather not see (like, how does that even happen?). Some Sundays are a blast. Some Sundays are emotional. Some Sundays are a challenge. Some Sundays are all of this and more.
Here’s the thing though—
Isn’t that the case with anything you’re committed to? Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes you’re only there because you feel like you’re supposed to be.
Being committed to something is scary.
It’s scary when someone knows you. Then they can ask how your family’s doing, if you’ve been going to counseling, how the job search is going or why you stopped serving. They can call you out for selfishness, misplaced priorities and anything else they notice.
They can also link arms with you when you don’t know what to pray. They can encourage you with texts at just the right time. They can celebrate your wins and cry with you over your losses.
And that’s the Church.
I hear it all the time, especially from people my age…why does going to church even matter?
Honestly? I think it’s a part of Christian discipline. I think it’s knowing you want to know God and that your knowledge of God and your experience of him is limited without others’ involvement. Being at church regularly means welcoming accountability, living with vulnerability (with the people you trust), motivating and being motivated to acts of love and good works.
God is bringing glory to himself in the church and Christ through all generations forever. And he’s doing it through his believers. He makes his believers fit together perfectly and as each person does their own work within the body of Christ (aka the Church) they help others grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Just go read your Bible (specifically some New Testament books like Ephesians and Romans) to hear more on that.
So church is hard. It’s messy. It’s complicated. After all, it’s made up of people. But it’s part of becoming like Christ, and if you’re serious about becoming like Christ and experiencing his goodness, his promises, his presence, his love, his plan, his provision…if you’re serious about living your life to Christ, for his glory (which he is 100% worthy of), you invite the messy in.
That’s how you get to freedom when you’re not sure God exists and when you don’t know how to deal with the pain you’re feeling. You show up, and you keep showing up. You invite people into your life, even the parts that hurt, even when it’s scary. And you realize that God created you for a purpose within the body of Christ, his Church, and that the time to fulfill that purpose is now.
So what is it like going to church every Sunday?
It’s fun and untidy and refreshing and exhausting. It’s a place you’ll always be tempted to run from because it’s a place where if you’re committed, you’ll also be known. But it is so important to your relationship with Christ and to the Church he’s always building.
My encouragement is to show up even on most of the days you don’t feel like it, because you’ll rarely regret it. Our God is making history through His Church and we get to be a part of it.