For the past few years I have been faithful to say the least in my involvement with church. I went from being complete pagan of the world, to a Christian within a matter of months. God literally plucked me out of sin and placed me in a church. I was lost and confused about who God was, who Jesus Christ was, and I was. As I began going to church, I felt a new life and a new purpose growing within me. I enjoyed the worship and the sermons. I went through a rapid stage of growth and development. I got baptized and my family became members of the church. Soon I was making friends and becoming active in church. God was working amazing miracles in my life!
Before I knew it I was in 6 Bible studies, I was on the worship team, I was in a life group, and participating in whatever ways I could. I loved my church and Sunday had become my favorite day of the week. It was a day to look forward to more than any other day. I just wanted nothing more to spend time communing with God and to worship and have fellowship with other Christians. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t even believe that people wouldn’t go to church and go on vacation instead. For me missing church was missing a huge part of my heart.
It’s hard to believe it has been over three years now since I first started going to church. My life has changed a lot in these past three years! I have gone beyond rapid growth and been catapulted into an even greater transformation then I could have ever imagined. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, deliverance, and inner healing, I am finally becoming who God has made me to be. I struggled and searched in desperation for so long to know who I was in Christ. I never thought I would ever possibly see the day that I could even have an understanding or glimpse who I am in Christ! And here I am. I surrender my heart, surrender my soul, I surrender all that I am; and the Potter has been faithful. He is going to finish the good work he started within me. And I am so very excited for that. I am learning and growing still, so very much. But not everything has been easy. This time has been excruciating difficult and painful.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Which leads me to the current season I am in with my church. I stopped attending church regularly about a month-and-a-half ago. Honestly, church has become extremely painful for me. Which is a very drastic change from what I have come from over the past few years. Truthfully, it’s a miracle that I was so passionate about church to begin with. You see I was raised in a church and in that church I was abused. Every person that said they were my family and cared about me, every person that was supposed to protect me and love me, turned love into pain, and crushed the person that God created me to be.
You see the devil has taught me a very important lesson. Love equals pain and people hurt you. That is what I firmly believed my entire life. And it was only by the grace of God as I was able to push through these beliefs for that season to grow relationships and have fellowship at church. It just came to the point that being at church caused me so much pain I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was already in so much pain and all around me I found that people at church were rejecting and abandoning me. I just could take it anymore. I could not take the people that knew me turning their backs on me and pretending that I wasn’t in great need. The little girl inside of me was so wounded, so alone and so desperate that I would walk away from church crying for many weeks.
Of course I understand that the pain I felt at church was from much deeper wounds that had taken root into the depths of my soul. That does not change the beliefs I have at the core of who I am. Healing takes time when the wounds are that deep. I am finding strength and healing in Jesus Christ, but I don’t honestly know what it’s going to take to get to the point where I don’t feel abandoned and rejected by people at my church.
Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
I used to have a deep-seated belief that if I didn’t go to church every week there was something bad or sinful about me. I would look down at people who would skip church casually as if it was no big deal. Church was what you do as a Christian. You go because it’s the right thing to do and your duty as a Christian. And we went week after week after week, no matter the cost. Thankfully I have realized that church is not a duty. If you’ve lost the passion to go and meet the Living God in a time of worship at church, then maybe you need a break. And if you feel like you need a break; it’s okay. God is not going to be angry with you. He’s not going to punish you. You’re not going to be a huge sinner. You’re not terrible and you’re not evil.
I think it’s time that we reshape and reevaluate the reasons why we go to church. What was the purpose that the church was originally started by our founding fathers? It wasn’t out of duty or obligation, but out of love and desire to see everyone grow together and have their needs met. They would get together and pray for each other and uplift each other and worship and praise the Lord together. They would help those in need who were lacking in food or clothes or shelter. They would teach each other about the Lord Jesus Christ and all He has done for us. They would prepare each other to go out into the world and spread that wonderful news. No one was lacking anything and everyone who was able would bring something important to the table. Not because they had to, but because they sincerely had deep love for each other and desired to see the good news spread far and wide. And they knew that wasn’t going to happen without love and a deeper root in Jesus Christ.
As I look around Church in this day and age, I do not see that commitment to love one another or a desire for growth and passion to bring the good news to the lost. I see people congregating together as if in a social club, hiding every flaw underneath a wide grin and doing their best to be the good Christian that they were told they need to be. I see pain masked in those smiles. I see brokenness hidden behind locked doors. I see love traded in for judgement and every man for himself.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
I know this is not the case for every single Christian and every single Church, yet that fact still remains for a large population of us. We’ve lost the passion and desire to worship our God, because we’re too busy worshiping idols and not wanting to look ridiculous raising our hands, or going on our knees before the only One that deserves our praises. We become very concerned about what our worship service is like. Is it too long? Is it casual enough? Is it formal enough? Is the music the way we like it? Are the people the kind we want to be around? And so on and so forth. We get caught up in all these logistics and politics and call it Church. Maybe we need to start to realize that church is just a building, and it doesn’t have anything to do with following Christ.
The word church as used in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “ekklesia“. According to Strong’s Concordance it means “an assembly” and according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon it means “called forth”. The church is meant to be a body of people who have been called forth to gather together. That does not have anything to do with the constraints we have put on “church”. There are no rules about what days, times, types of buildings, etc we are to use to gather together. First and foremost we are to gather together in praise and thanksgiving to God, and that needs to be done every single day, not only on Sunday mornings. How many people do church one hour a week and call it good, separating church from the rest of their lives. When did church become and event instead of lifestyle?
I certainly do not need to go to a building to follow Jesus Christ or to worship and to praise Him, to love Him, to hear from Him, to have a relationship with Him, to love others more, to follow the call He has in my life. Does that mean that we should stop going to church? No, that is not what I’m saying. But we need to be very careful to not let church define who we are, and stop putting Christianity into a box of what we think it should look like, how we should behave, and who we should be. Following Jesus Christ has nothing to do with any of those things whatsoever. Following Jesus has to do with surrendering your whole heart and soul to the one Creator God, giving yourself and your worship and adoration. After that the rest is easy. You just follow Him.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23
I have had so many different ideas of what it looks like to be a Christian, or how I should act, or what I should do. God has deconstructed each one of them and started to show me that instead of forming my own ideas, I need to go to the One who formed the entire universe and His hands. I need to seek Him first and His Kingdom and then everything else will be added to me. It works differently for every person because God created each of us uniquely. God has a special call on each one of our lives and each call is to do something amazing in His Kingdom. But we need to stop being bogged down but by our own misconceptions about what following Christ looks like. We need to be willing to surrender those ideas; those prefabricated molds, that have been placed upon us, and start living for Him instead. We have no idea what God has in store for each one of us. Our minds can’t even fathom what God would have us do. Much like Gideon, we are all hiding away, just trying to keep ourselves busy doing the work we think we should be doing, but instead God has been calling you out saying “mighty warrior just take one step to trust me and see what I will do with you”. It’s okay to question. What’s not okay is turn your back and say “Not me Lord”.
I have no idea what the future holds for me and my church life. But I do know one thing: God is healing me. God is transforming me making me new and raising me up to be who He wants me to be. As long as I’m faithful to keep following Him and surrendering, He will be faithful to complete the good work. I have visited some other churches in the area and attended some events at my own church. Whatever happens I will continue to be open to following the spirit wherever He leads. Even when it’s difficult, even when I don’t want to; because I trust Him. If God loves me enough that He would come down to earth and live a human life, and know rejection and abandonment and pain and torture, just like I have; and I know He loves me enough to take good care of me.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 12:27