It has been said that the hardest obstacle to overcome for people in regards to coming to God is church. We are not talking walls, steeple, pews, and pulpits. We are talking about the very bodies that warm the seats. The Church of God is an eclectic bunch of folk. It really is no wonder that the outside world is looking in with confusion and disgust as they watch the Elect of God nitpick over standards, convictions, preferences, and each other, all the while throwing aside the Gospel to make their point.
I know I am going to stir up some pots here, but I am going to say something that is going to shock some.
I don’t care what you wear.
I don’t care what you watch on T.V.
I don’t care what you listen to.
I don’t care what church you attend.
Honestly, I don’t even care if you attend church right now.
Here is my immediate concern: Have you heard?
The word ‘Gospel’ means good news. Have you heard it?
I heard it for the first time about 28 years ago and here I stand today, still hearing about it, and still learning. My knowledge of it increases daily. My desire to know more keeps on growing. My need for others to be given this great gift that God presents us all keeps getting deeper and more imperative.
We are in a desperate state these days.
If evolution is true, then as a species we should be excelling and achieving bigger and better things every day. Instead, we are breaking down and becoming less and less human.
I don’t have to tell you that the earth is going to hell in a hand basket.
There are murders, rapes, shady dealings, mental health issues galore, cancers, illness, trafficking, and so much more. We are in need of something that we cannot supply ourselves. We can’t find a cure for darkness and evil. We can’t will away the bad by being ultra-good. It is here to stay.
But then God…
If I know anything, (which it is very little) I know that I am a mess. I can’t hold it together and really anything “good” that I do has a motive or purpose behind it to benefit me.
God though, steps in and lends a hand. More than that, he lifts me up and carries me on.
Not able to rid myself of my condemnation, he supplied a payment for my sins, which are many.
Think about this for a moment. You see a toddler. They swipe a toy from a playmate. That playmate wallops him for taking his toy. Were these actions taught? No way! It is totally ingrained in us to be selfish, mean, and sinful.
But there is a Way, a Light, a Truth out of all of this.
I yearn for others to know forgiveness, peace, and hope.
Alas, church, we have gotten in the way.
There is a place for standards and convictions. Doctrine is very important, otherwise Christ himself would not have spoken of it.
But are we, church, missing the first step? What about the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel? What about the greatest act of love shown to mankind on the darkest day in history?
We try to “save” a world by changing their outside first when it is really the heart that needs tender nurturing. This is what Christ did. He saw the person. Not the immediate, obvious outside of a person, but the heart.
He hung out with the thieves, vagabonds, rebels, prostitutes, and sick. Why? He knew they had a need more than the holy and he was willing to bring them the cure.
I remember attending a church one time that I had never been to before. Though I tend to looked “churched”, I still did not fit into the group that was there. And the people made it obvious that I was not together enough to come and worship. No one was friendly and welcomed me. I was given looks and whispers were made. What a terrible experience that was. On a day when I hoped to be welcomed to worship and learn about a God that is just, forgiving, and love itself, I left feeling judged, abandoned, condemned, and despised. Oh reader, I hope and pray this has never been done to you. I hope you know that you ARE loved. You ARE welcome.
I cannot control anyone else. This is a lesson that I am constantly teaching my kids. We can only control our own responses and actions, which oft times is hard when I get the urge to knock someone to the floor. However, I pray that I can be welcoming, non-judgmental, and with the prayerful heart that Christ loves all those that seek after him as much as he loves me.
If you have tried the “church thing” and felt lacking, may I address that for a moment?
Religion is made with hands. It breaks, wears, and eventually crumbles. Do not look for religion. Though God desires his people to be shining examples of who he is, we fail constantly. So do not look to us “churchys” either. Look to the Truth, the Word.
I have had a number of people come to me with questions and I try to always refer them back to the Bible because nothing I have to say has any value to it. Only God does. Only his words mean anything at all.
If you are seeking God, but have been burned by the local church, may I encourage you to try again?
People are just that. People.
We are all heavily flawed, have bad days, and can be flat out insensitive. But you are not looking for people. You are looking for a Person. And he is ready to be found.
I would love to share some things to keep in mind when you are looking for a place to seek out God in community worship.
1. The Use of the Bible in Preaching
If we are going to church to find God, but we are not letting him speak, then what is the point? We can listen to all the fluffy sermons and encouraging speeches we want, but those will not get us closer to the revelation of Christ. This world is full of motivational speakers who have the talent and ability to move and encourage a crowd. But church is not for motivation and speeches of man’s word. It is a time to hear from God. Listen to what his message is for you.
2. The Church is Actively Involved in the Community
(I loved this saying…)
This is such an important one because Christ called all believers to go out and teach the Gospel. We, as a church, are not made to stick to ourselves only and stay inside of our walls. That’s called a club, and you can find one of those at your local YMCA. The Church is not a club but a group of people who have put their full trust in Christ, accepted him as their only saving grace, and go out to tell others about him. They seek to love their neighbor, as Christ did. They look to bring to those that are in need, whether physically, mentally, and for sure, spiritually.
3. The Church is NOT Just for Your Kids
Yes, we love when our kids get excited about church. We love that they have developed wonderful friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. We are thankful for teachers that teach them Bible stories and truths. And we are blessed to have found all these things. But a word of warning. We don’t go to church for our children to be entertained or babysat. We, as adults, need to be fed spiritually first, so that we can grow in our faith in Christ and then teach our children. Yes, church is an amazing resource and my kids come home with nuggets of wisdom that I never shared with them. But it is my sole responsibility as the parent to teach them Truth.
Perhaps you are new in your faith or are just trying to figure this God thing out. I strongly encourage you to find a church that fits the previous points so that you can grow and learn first.
Our relationship with the Creator is a journey that is eternal. But it always starts at the cross, passes through the cross, and ends, at the cross. I pray that you can find your way to the cross and then grow in your knowledge of the greatest gift that was ever given to mankind: life everlasting.