Church is not enough. You heard me. I said it.
I’m trying to remember when I first learned this lesson. Probably in college. There weren’t many options for church in our town. I was still thinking church was about me at that point. My growth. My membership. My belonging. My likes. My dislikes. My preferences.
You’ve got to hear me out on this one. It’s not really about me. Or you. It’s about us and God. Is that proper grammar?
I grew up going to church. It was not an option to miss a Sunday. We went. Once, we had church at home, but that was only because a tornado was near our neighborhood. I was very shy, so as a girl I didn’t like being put in a situation where I was forced to talk to a bunch of people. For awhile I would time needing to use the restroom in the middle of the service so I could stay in there as long as possible. My mom figured out what I was doing and forbid me to go. Faced with normal kid boredom during the sermon, I remember looking through the hymnal, the Bible, and playing with the veins on my mom’s hand. Doodling was an option as well. I tried to listen, and I didn’t squirm much. It would take me through high school to really find enjoyment and learn to worship God with my whole self in church, but the rhythm of going was set early.
I believe that being part of a church is vital to the faith of a Christian. We need each other. We learn together. We serve together. We pray with each other. It is a body. It is the Body of Christ. This is where the mystery sets in. We are the Body together. Christ is in us, and we are in Him. Oh, the beauty of the theology on this one! It is a mystery. Embrace it. God longs for us to embrace the mystery that is God. Know what you don’t know. You know?
Here’s the kicker: It’s not enough to be part of a church. Church is not just about me or you. Faith isn’t just about church. Now, breathe. A relationship with the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth takes a lot of nurturing, time, and investment. Church is good. Vital. But, I’ve got a responsibility to my church peeps to nurture that relationship with God every day individually. This means I have a healthy part to join to the others when I’m being the church.
This insight frees me so much. In whatever church I am in (be it in Asia or in Texas), I can commit. I need my church. But I don’t have expectations for church to meet all my needs, give me strokes, grow me, change me. This can happen. It has happened. God still uses the church to change people, and God will continue to do so.
There is richness in being part of a group of folks who commit to God together. If you don’t have this, I would encourage you to give it a shot. Whatever your reason for trying it out, that’s a start. God is beckoning us all into a relationship with God and others that is full of love and mystery.
If you’re feeling low, bored, or unfulfilled in life, there’s no greater fulfillment than this. I am your witness. For out of all those Sundays of church as a child, my family still broke up. I grew disappointed and rebellious. At 18, I knew I had a choice to make. Live my life with God as the center or turn away completely. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it was a serious moment for me. I chose God. I have still been disappointed, rebellious, and had problems. But, I have never been alone. Peace has always come. There is no void in my life even in the darkest moments. The Spirit of God lives within me, and I know that God guides me and even teaches me how to pray.
Sorry to go a preachin,’ but it is Sunday after all. And I had to share my heart with you today, the holy day of Pentecost when Peter brought the word to many people and the Holy Spirit of God came. And this is the word I bring to you today:
Be part of the Church. Release selfish expectations. Be free to commit! Love God. Nurture this relationship every day. Grab a quiet moment. Light a candle. Read the Scriptures. Offer a prayer. Listen. Give thanks. Help someone. Dig into theology a bit. Ask for help. Breathe. Sing everyday. Thank Jesus. Amen.