Have you ever thought about your purpose for attending church each week? Many of us attend regularly but why? I asked myself this very question when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I went to church on a regular basis, however, my spiritual condition remained in need of intensive care. In my book, Thank You Hurt…I’m Better Sense I Faced You!, I speak very openly about my experience. My life was in such turmoil that I was desperate to find out how to make it better. Ironically, I lived in a terrible emotional and spiritual place under the roof of a sanctuary every week. Sadly, I sank lower and lower with each passing service.
I struggled to really accept God’s genuine love in my life. I had a hard time believing that a man so perfect could love someone like me – an imperfect mess of a girl. I just could not see how this was going to work. It did not make sense to me. I had issues on top of issues so I decided that I would give church a try, not God, but church. Now, I know that my personal issues were my own to work out but I was not ready for church at all. Is anyone every really ready for church? I dare not touch that topic now but I do know that I was caught off guard by my experiences. I genuinely thought that if I surrounded myself by other church-goers that I’d get the help I needed for life. I thought I made the right decision because I felt that my life was missing something.
I thought my life would change automatically when I first started going to church. I thought my commitment to God would shield me from having the issues, temptations, and desires I had before. I thought that once I got saved that my life would change. At least, that is what is said in church. I was a young, immature twenty-something year old college student when I decided to give it a try. I hoped that God would take control of my out-of-control life and make sense of it. I was making decisions and doing things that I was not proud of. I was dumbfounded by many of the things I did along the way. I often wondered to myself “what in the world was I thinking?” or “why did I do that?” It seemed I could not help myself. I was self-destructing and things were getting worse.
So, like many struggling Christians, I was an on-again-off-again saint for years. Going to church in the beginning was hopeful because the people in church showed lots of love and welcomed me with open arms. The attention was overwhelming. However, the love and kindness faded after a while. As the new car smell of my conversion began to fade, the people I thought would demonstrate God’s unconditional love began to get fewer in number. The atmosphere went from “come as you are” to “don’t come like that”. I think my spiritual growth and maturity was either taking too long or it did not unfold the way some thought it should after a while. Most people became less kind and more judgmental. Ironically, though, no one helped me to find any resolution for the problems they judged me on. Lord knows I had no clue what to do. I was not in a place that I could pick up the Bible and it make sense to me. Even if I did, I needed someone to help me apply what I was learning to my life. I needed to know how to activate the power source that I tapped into. I was lost.
I felt that I was left to fail because people threw scriptures at me and treated me as if I was rebellious to God’s word. I felt as if people (when I say people, I mean church folk) wanted me to change as soon as they said anything or quoted a scripture to me. In addition to my own self-esteem issues, I felt that I did not have what it took to satisfy God. I failed at every turn with His people so, I felt it was pointless to try to be right in His eyes. Au contraire, my friend!
I felt this way for years until one day I decided that God’s grace and His mercy were all I needed to get by. The Bible declares “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8, KJV). I wish I had figured this out a long time ago. It took me a long time to get it but I got it now and I want you to have it. God loves us so much that He sent His son, Jesus, to die for us before we had a chance to mess up. Jesus paid the ultimate price to save us from the penalty of sin – no one else. This changed my life.
The words, looks, thoughts, and opinions of people became mute points for me. Internalizing this truth freed me of the need to be approved by seasoned saints. I have learned that people with think of me however they see me – be it good, bad, or indifferent. My plea to you is that no matter what issues you come with, go to church to hear the word. Allow the word of God to change, guide, and improve your life. The people sitting next to you need Him just like you do. They haven’t made it yet. They are not Enoch. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, KJV). But, do not cheat yourself or others – be a doer of the word. Please do not deceive yourself (James 1:22, KJV) into thinking you have made it just because you attend church regularly and can quote scriptures on demand.
As you sit in the pew on Sunday mornings, allow God’s love to penetrate your heart and change your life. You do not owe anything to anyone. You are not required to be perfect, no matter what anyone says to you. God will complete His work in you as you stay before Him. On this journey for eternal life, please remember the uncomfortable feeling you felt when people judged you. Not to be hostile or mad with those who judged you but, to help you be an example of God’s love to the next generation believers. You just might be the other reason people keep coming to church.