I can honestly say, “I love our church.” I don’t mean the building. (It kinda’ smells because it’s old and it is a preschool during the week.)
I’m also not referring to the service on Sundays. I love the worship, testimonies, and ordinances we partake in there, but the church is not a place or an event. It is us. Now I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses. Other Christians have hurt me deeply, but other times they have held me up when I thought I couldn’t go on.
I have met many wounded church people. Someone said, “ ere is no pain like church pain.” I agree as some of my deepest hurts involved other believers. However, we can’t give up on each other because Jesus established the church. He called it His body and His bride. He believes in community. Lone Ranger Christ-following isn’t really a thing according to Scripture.
I remember one time when our daughter Abby first began to lose her hair [as she battled alopecia]. Our church family showered us with help, prayer, and encouragement. They seemed to anticipate our needs even before we realized them. It was clear many had endured their own trials and knew just how to help and what to say (or not to say). Through hats, notes of encouragement, and prayers, God’s love was fleshed out through the body of Christ—just as He designed. Those expressions were God’s grace and source of strength to us in moments of despair. We saw Jesus in our church family.
As we model for our others a commitment to community in the good and bad times, we’ll find blessings in the midst of the pain. Still, we must continually guard against participating in community solely for our own bene t. So many times, I’ve heard statements like:
- “No one from church came to see me or called me.” (Did they know you were sick or struggling?)
- “I don’t feel connected. Nobody talks to me.” (Do you participate in a smaller group setting? Sometimes in a large group it’s di cult to get to know people. Have you made e orts to talk to others, or are you waiting for them to talk to you?)
- “Why don’t we have this or that ministry or connection opportunity?” (Are you willing to put in the time and e ort to help make the change you want to see in your church?)
- “I don’t like the music [preaching, lights, temperature] at church.” (Have you lost sight of what matters? Church is about worshipping God and fellowshipping with other believers—for their bene t as well as yours—not personally approving of every aspect.)
As parents, we have to remember that little ears are often listening when conversations regarding church take place. You may think they aren’t hearing and internalizing in the back of the car or at the dinner table, but they are. And your attitude toward church will impact theirs.
If you have issues with your church, remember to start at the top! Christ is the head of the body. Spend some time in his presence asking for direction and help. We know through the Epistles that the early church had problems just as we have in our churches today. As Christians were often oppressed in those days, they found strength
in numbers; they stuck together and worked out their differences. Is it ever appropriate to leave a church for a new one? Of course. But sometimes people head for a new church without trying to work out their problems with leaders or other congregants. It can be easier to avoid than to confront issues, but Jesus tells us that community is worth it.
How do you approach your church community? Has any consumer thinking crept into your posture toward being a part of the body? Ask God to help you model for your children and others around you a love for God’s body!
Editor’s Note: A popular women’s conference speaker and Bible teacher, Melissa Spoelstra is the author of Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World (Abingdon Press, 2014) and Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness (Abingdon Press, 2016). Her husband, Sean, is pastor of Encounter Church, a Grace Brethren congregation in Dublin, Ohio, where they live with their four children.
This story first appeared in the Summer 2017 GraceConnect magazine. If you would like to have your personal copy delivered to you via U.S. Mail, click here for your free subscription.