My new post series explores why people are passionate about the things they love and what makes them tick. You may have read my sister Jo’s post about why she loves to dance (and if you didn’t, check it out, because it’s a thought-provoking read!), and soon I’ll be sharing other people’s contributions too, on topics such as teaching, travelling, bird watching and more. For my post, I decided to write about why I go to church.
I’ve been a committed Christian since I was a child, but lately, my church-going has been pretty erratic. I’m consistently late when I do turn up, and fairly regularly I succumb to the enticements of lie-ins, family days, even chores, and fail to turn up at all.
With this in mind, perhaps I ought to start this post thinking about ‘Why I don’t go to Church.’
There are a range of reasons for my regular non-attendance, some of which are superficial and some of which are far more complex, running deeper through my personal story and character.
There have been times in my story when I have seen people in churches hurt those I love, and there have been times when I have been hurt myself by those professing to be my brothers and sisters. Wounds like this take time to heal and often the scars become like barriers. A part of me does not want to engage with church in case I am disappointed by the hypocrisy and even coldness I might find there.
Another reason I have a hard time wanting to get up, get out the door and into church on a Sunday morning is that I am in many ways an introvert. Processing my inner-most feelings – which I am inevitably drawn to do in situations of prayer and worship – in a public place, surrounded by a couple hundred others, can feel daunting and uncomfortable.
Then there are the superficial difficulties I have with church, getting up on a Sunday morning being number one on the list.
The reality is that church is an incredibly challenging place. It challenges me to look out of myself, to put up with and show love to people who are different from me. It challenges me to show vulnerability in admitting both my struggles and joys. It challenges me to forgive, to make sacrifices, to trust when I’d rather not. To step out of my comfort zone. It challenges me to get up on a Sunday morning.
So, why do I go to church?
For one thing, all those challenges are not doing me any harm at all. How can one grow if never challenged?
And then there’s the undeniable truth that for me, Church is and should be family. As I wrote above, a handful of church people have hurt me or others I love, and some Christians simply embarrass me. Families do that – because we’re imperfect, and often because we care. More often than not, though, my church family have been there for me, offering me love and acceptance whether I deserve it or not. They ask how my day was and pray for me when I’m ill. They listen to my rants and don’t hold my sarcasm against me. They cry with me when I’m sad and share my happiness when things are good. How could I be without them?
There is of course another reason that I go to church, and that is that I genuinely believe in and love God. Not perfectly and consistently like he believes in and loves me, but I do, and I want to believe in and love him more and better. I see hope for myself and the world in him.
I believe he deserves my attention, my attentiveness, because of the natural world around me that convinces me time and time again of his greatness, and because of the stories of his human life. Jesus’ life was lived as a sacrifice – a message of love written with tears, pain and courage, one with the potential to challenge the guns, the bombs and the injustices of our times.
A God that demonstrates these qualities of creative power and sacrificial vulnerability at once deserves my Sunday morning, at the very least.