I have attended my church about four times since the beginning of March this year. It's not that I don't like going to church, I do. But I feel as though, with both the churches I've chosen to attend over the last 7 years, something is missing. That I don't fit in with the current day demographic.
Maybe I do. Maybe it's just me. But for now, I am an occasional church attender but a full time Jesus loving, prayer slinging, God worshipping Bible studying girl.
I have other friends who are on this exact same journey. And, recently, I've learnt that there are many, many people around the world that are experiencing the same type of questioning. I don't know what the answer is to the questioning I am doing about attending church, but I know the One who does. I also know He will provide me with the answer in His time.
I attended a small church in my home town between the ages of nine and 18. I attended then taught Sunday School. I stood up front and sang in the little 3 girl "choir". I went to Girl's Rally on a Friday night, and to Youth Group on a Saturday night. I diligently studied my Bible and wrote down notes during the sermon (which I still do!). I learnt, I grew, I loved being a Christian and attending church. That stopped when I turned 18 and discovered the freedom that comes from being "legal". Then I stopped attending church altogether. Stopped reading my Bible. Just stopped.
I graced a church building only a few times over the next 18 years. First to get married to the man I had no business marrying, then to attend weddings, funerals, and christenings. My return to church came 18 years later as a lost 36 year old single mum who answered the yearning in her heart. The yearning that had been whispering to me over those 18 years.
Since that time I've been attending church regularly except for this year. Something changed in March. Maybe it was going to Hillsong's women's conference Colour where I felt somewhat overwhelmed at times, and started questioning why. Maybe it was God telling me that He isn't just about mass services of unity, that it's about Him. Maybe He was telling me that my life needed a shake up so I could do more for Him and not just myself.
Whatever the reason, despite not attending church, I do miss the closeness that I remember feeling from my childhood church given that the church I now call home, and the previous church, are what are termed as "large" churches, ie 1000 plus people attending every session.
Don't get me wrong. I am not bagging going to a church, whether it be small, large or mega. What I am having difficulty with, and have done so for a few years now, (which is also one of the reasons I changed churches), is this. We go TO the church building, we mix WITH the church people, and we focus ON the church life. My question has and is, "Wasn't the church created, as we read in Acts, so we GO out into the world and share the gospel of Jesus?"
Yes, it was. Our direction seems to have become askew.
But I see how God is changing that. We are seeing more and more people from within churches GOing out and being Jesus. Mixing with the prostitutes, the drug addicts, the murderers, and the thieves. Taking greater risks and encountering more resistance thah has even been encountered before. We are seeing more and more people from within churches GOing out and putting their lives on the line for "the likes of these". Being the only Jesus that some will ever see in their entire lives.
When God spoke to me about this, He reminded me that I don't need a big or "trendy" mission field. I only needed to look at what - who - was right in front of me: my daughter, my family, my friends, my work colleagues, and so on. I feel that I have failed to "be Jesus" in many of these areas since then, but looking back at where I was spiritually, emotionally and mentally, God wanted me to grow and heal before I could help others. The process has been long and hard, but I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and He is still working on me.
So, for the time being I will continue to be kind to myself, to grow and to heal, while also looking out for those around me where and when I can. Looking out for those in my circle. Those who probably need to know Jesus more right now than those who I walk by in the church building.
I will continue to look toward the light that is The Son. I will follow in His direction and ensure that my direction does not become askew and misaligned.. And one day, when He is ready to send me back, I will return to church. A church of His choosing, not just one that is "up the road" and convenient.