At many times, I pondered the importance of going. Sometimes it felt like the "right thing to do" but it seemed like I was just going to get an attendance star. Sometimes I went long enough to "get my Jesus fix" but stalled when life got hectic. Sometimes I left church altogether because of something somebody did or said, or because of major transitions.
And, the two points of my life when my walk with God got the closest were after tragedy and loss - when I wasn't going to church.
Often I thought, was church really necessary?
What I knew was...
- You don't need to go to church to believe in God.
- You don't have to be in church to worship Him.
- Church (and God) had let me down.
So wasn't it just easier to be a Christian on my terms?
Did I really need to go to church regularly?
Did I really need to go to church regularly?
To get you to the end, I should start at the beginning.....
Grandpa's influence led me to be saved at the age 9 when, on wobbly knees, I walked towards his smiling face and warm arms one Sunday. Yet, even with that foundation, once married, I wasn't consistent in church attendance. Major holidays and the occasional surprise visits were about the only time I went. I believed in God but felt regular church attendance was something older people (like my grandparents) did.
When we learned that we were expecting, my husband and I talked of hopes and dreams for the future. One included raising our children in church. I'm not sure why that was a value, given that neither of us were brought up going.
Though we shared the Bible stories with our oldest from the start, we didn't make regular rounds of finding a church home until he was three or four years old. And along the way, many churches failed us. Some had too many restrictions and requirements. One told us our son made too much noise. Others expected service too soon, before we really even understood what being a Christian even meant. For awhile, we just quit trying.
After the birth of our second child, six years into our marriage, we found our first church home. Both my boys would end up baptized there. But we were seasonal attendees at best, going for the kids and when it was convenient to our schedule. And then, due to tragedy, we were forced into church limbo.
Given that we never consistently attended, it seemed strange to me that I struggled with our absence. In our walk with grief from child loss, my relationship with God was a roller coaster. I was angry, scared, and confused, but I still clung to what faith I had. No matter how much I pushed God away, I could feel that He never let go.
There was something that kept pulling, kept nudging me to go and find a church home. Stubbornly, as I often do, I dug my heels in and didn't listen. At least not right away.
Now, when think back on the blessings that our current church home has given us, I sometimes wonder what we missed out on during that time in limbo. I only thought I was growing in my relationship with Him.
Because, in reality, my walk with God dramatically changed once I fully committed my time to Him.
- You don't need to go to church to believe in God but you need to go to fully know Him because He+We=Church. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
- You don't have to be in church to worship Him but fellowship and discipleship with other believers is true worship. (Romans 12:5)
- Church (and God) had let me down but they also picked me up again. and again. and again. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) And in truth, I'd let them down too.
When we quit asking, "Are we going to church today?" and just committed ourselves to go, amazing change began in our lives.
We had other believers helping us be accountable, in love not judgement. We've had tremendous growth in our knowledge of the Word because we're in it on a regular basis, not just when we're in a pew. We have others to share our struggles and joys and to pray alongside us. As a family, our prayer life has grown. We've learned what service to others is really all about and have found a place for everyone to use their talents and gifts. Our family has become closer and stronger. We've changed - for the better - more in the past three years than I feel we did our whole lifetimes before.
Maybe you don't need to go to church.
But once you fully get to know God, you should want to.
For me, it was worth the journey, the struggles, and every twist and turn this Christian walk took me to get where we are today. I can't imagine my life without the Church. My hope for you, friends, is that you have a family of faith like this too. If not, it is my prayer I'm lifting up for you today.