Last Sunday, I stood in a troubled church. Going to church is something fewer and fewer people are doing, according to the pundits. I understand. I’ve been there, myself.
But as I stood there Sunday, singing songs that are not my style, surrounded by people of another generation, I realized something strange: I was there by choice, and I was enjoying it. And none of it made any logical sense.
Oh, I’ve been to the churches that are more to my liking, with more contemporary music, with cool videos and drama. With wonderful children’s departments, complete with large screens and their very own worship time, surrounded by creative decor and funky-kid colors (“characterized by originality and modishness”). Those were incredible places to go, and I loved my time there. But looking back, I found that when you sweep all of the trappings aside and look around, you still have a church filled with people, with all of the problems that represent the human dilemma.
I only left those churches because circumstances changed, but I’m skipping that part of the story for you. (You’re welcome.)
For periods of time, I’ve been out of church, too…sleeping in, enjoying my hot tea and the comics on Sunday morning, breathing fresh morning air, cooking brunch, having a conversation with my husband for once, and catching up on things all afternoon. That was wonderful, too, and it served its purpose.
But a strange thing has been happening lately. God has been tapping me on the shoulder, telling me He’s missed me there, at church.
Now, don’t get me wrong. God and I have a perfectly good relationship outside of church. That was what my miracle of a few years back was all about: learning to walk with Him, just for the pleasure of it, in our quiet, secret places, and being transformed by that experience. But that’s not the point, and that’s not today’s story. Today’s story is about being in a troubled church, by choice, and being okay, from the inside out.
There’s something about being in church that acts like an anchor, you know.
And, it’s not always about me.
Oh, I’m skipping so much, but there is just not time.
Basically, God has been gently taking me by the hand (smiling and beckoning) and pulling me, back to the troubled, little church five minutes down the road…back to my home church. And like a child, I’ve followed. That’s the best that I can explain it.
And here’s the deal: I stood there Sunday realizing that I was okay there, in the troubled church, because I’m okay on the inside. And when you’re okay inside, you can be content in places that are not okay on the outside.
Do I still struggle at times? Of course. But has my heart been healed? Absolutely. With loving and surgical precision. That doesn’t make any logical sense, either, does it? But it’s true. It’s hard to explain a miracle.
The pre-miracle me would never have been okay in a troubled church. And I never was.
I hope you will join me in the adventure of finding a church and going to worship, even if you’re discouraged with church, even if you’ve been out for awhile, even if church if not your thing, and even if you’ve never been. Yes, going to church is old-fashioned and out of style. And like mine, your church will probably have troubles. What church doesn’t? They’re filled with people, aren’t they?
One caveat: Going to church is only one slice of the big pizza. If you’re not okay on the inside yet, it might not do much good. So, if you’re not okay on the inside, run to the Lover of your soul (Jesus, the Truth), experience just you and Him (anywhere) and figure all of that stuff out. He will help you. That’s your Job One, and you’ll be glad you did it.
From the inside out.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10: 24-25, NIV)
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”
(From “Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing”, a song Timothy and I are currently studying in school, and a song we happened to sing Sunday in the Troubled Church.)