Recently one of my favorite bloggers ( afracturedfaith ) wrote about difficulty in finding a church where you feel at home. It started me thinking about this. Since 1976 I have been in a church that felt like home. From 1976 to around 1997. At that point I was working with the minister of the church and found myself with ethical differences and joined the church I was working for. I felt at home there until they ended my job and now am struggling to see where I belong.
I asked myself what made me feel at home in the first church and I think part of the answer is the people. They were welcoming and caring. I also think it was a place where I fit in socially. Probably a lame reason but it helped me feel comfortable. The progress toward being at home came as I connected myself to the things going on. I joined the women’s group, helped with Sunday School and just generally made myself a part of the group.
With the second church I was part of the staff which automatically made me comfortable. However, it was the people who made me a part of the church family. I worked through 8 pastors so who was in charge was not a part of my belonging. It didn’t seem to matter.
Bottom line ….it seems that for me the people are the primary reason why I feel a part of a church. There are certain other things that matter to me. I like liturgy so churches like Lutheran, Episcopal etc. fit me better. I like the beauty of the service. That doesn’t matter to some people and they prefer a different kind of service. A church service can be boring if you don’t feel moved by what is happening. That is not all the time but once in a while the whole package gets to some place inside.
The question is can you be a Christian without going to church. In my opinion yes….but. It is a very BIG but. As Christians we are called to service. Living a Christ-like life is what we are to do. It is not easy but we must work to get better at it day by day. That means we can’t be Christian in isolation. Just to sit and read the Bible is not following Christ. Christ did belong to a community. He belonged and loved others.
Church may not be the answer for everyone but when you read Christ’s word make sure you are following his only commandment.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
He also gave us the great commission in Matthew 28:19
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Life is always interesting. It is not always pleasant. Too often we have to struggle to face challenges. The challenge may not be that tough but it is the adding on of another and another. I am almost better at handling one big challenge that the little ones that pile up. They wear us out and we finally crumble under the weight. Things have been that way for me since last summer. There have been family issues, health issues, grief and sadness. None of these individually are that significant. It’s just that your shoulders reach the point where they can no longer bear the weight and something fails.
When we reach the breaking point whatever our weakness is will raise its ugly head. I went along for so long without any major problems. Life was good. Things were simple but after the last months I have lapsed back and am struggling to maintain my focus. I want so much to continue with the things that I know will help me and I am trying. Sometimes it feels as if there is no end to it.
Each of us has our own struggles, our Achilles heel. Each of us wants to be on the path to health and wholeness. Many of you, like me, find that the strength to continue the journey in our faith. To be able to turn to something that offers us strength when we are weak, hope when we can’t see the light and love is what saves us.
Every night I have been reading through the Psalms beginning with Psalm 1. I have found great comfort in them in spite of the ones that fuss about enemies. GOD IS truly with us. We do have strength….it is his.
O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
I grew up in an era where church was important. Most of the USA were church goers. That doesn’t mean that they were really Christians but they went to church. Which church people attended was sometimes chosen for social reasons. Going to church on Sunday was just what you did.
In my family we had a mixture. My father (of Scottish decent) and mother were Presbyterian. My grandparents were Methodist and my Aunt and Uncle (of German origins) were Lutheran. It didn’t seem strange to me that everyone in my family went somewhere different. The one thing that was understood was that we all had Christianity as our roots. Of all the family my grandmother’s faith was rock solid. She read the Bible every day and prayed faithfully. She also was the perfect example of Christian living. I never heard her speak against anyone, she gave generously, and was kind to all.
Because of this upbringing I grew up believing in and depending on God. Because of all the different examples before me I questioned often, read extensively and never felt constrained by doctrine. I was free to find my path. I think being able to explore helped me to never stop believing in God. God was never static for me.. God was and is bigger than any box anyone ever tried to put him/her/it in.
Today people are exploring God/spirituality in many different ways. Church is no longer the norm. There are many reasons why this has happened. Most of us explore during out formative years. Maybe they find a different path. The path of other faiths may draw them. I only hope that the path each person takes gives them the strength that I find in mine.
My belief is the thing that holds me up when things are not good. I turn to that faith and rest on it. It gives me strength to keep moving on and has done so for 77 years. People help to sustain my life and reflect God’s image to me often but this doesn’t stand alone. I don’t know what people hold on to who have no faith to turn to. Maybe they don’t need one. It certainly wouldn’t work for me. “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46)
Life goes on. Christmas Day is past but we are still in the 12 days of Christmas which no one recognizes today. When I was young we celebrated the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We didn’t go to the whole 12 days but at least the holiday was extended.
Now the world is done with Christmas. Today I went shopping and the store has put out Valentine’s cards…..on to the next holiday. . Today so many people are backing away from church and I do understand it. Church is filled with real people….some good…some bad. Many seem hypocritical. They go to church on Sunday and are not at all Christian the rest of the time. Many churches live to perpetuate themselves. They collect money to keep the buildings up and only a token amount goes to live out Christ’s mission. We need to re-think what it is all about.
On the positive side church does provide Christian community. At least I hope it does. The community can hold you up when you are in the depths. Their prayers can make a difference. This is part of living Christian.
So just like people churches are not perfect. They are only as good as the people who inhabit them. It is hard to live Christian in our society. Cynicism seems to often be the norm. It is easy to think that I can’t help people who don’t seem to help themselves. Whether it is logical or not this is what we are called to do. We are not called to judge the need but to carry out the ministry. Jesus didn’t ask what the people he healed or changed were going to do. He did tell them to go and make disciples.
Am I following through?