Amazing. Boring. Exciting. For old people. Where Jesus moves. Where God lives. Where community happens. For Christmas. A place of acceptance. A place of judgement. LOVE.
To many people, the word “church” conjures different feelings. The place means different things.
Here’s what I’ve learnt (so far) –
1. What you learn about church as you grow up has a huge influence on what you think it is when you are older.
Because church was kind of a snore-fest when I was a kid -full of old people, boring songs and irrelevant ancient readings – that’s what I always assumed it was.
I now believe there are churches like that still (it is my opinion that they are those things, to the people who attend those churches, they love it… We all have our own taste.)
2. Church is not actually for me.
It’s amazing as a Christian to come together with other Christians and worship God, learn about what His Word (the Bible) teaches, and how Jesus (God the Son), lived when He dwelt amongst us. BUT… I don’t believe that’s where we should reside. If the Church throughout history had taken that attitude and stance, then, let’s face it, pretty much none of us would be Christians today. The church would have flopped, because it would never have grown.
God wants us to make our churches the answer to any question – because He is the answer to any of life’s questions. We, as Christians, need to make every church a place that’s doors are wide open, to welcome in every individual and make them feel loved, accepted, and that they belong, BECAUSE… they do!! God has enough space in His heart for every individual. Even the worst of the worst. And a lot of people think they are that person. That’s the person we need to embrace and make feel comfortable and at home. That’s the person I need to be thinking about on a Sunday, not myself.
(FYI, side note – I am talking to myself here too, I am on the journey with you, not speaking from a place of perfection…)
3. Church is every day. And it’s not a building.
After the age of about eight, I didn’t attend church every week any more. We moved house and stopped going. I actually don’t know what the reason was behind that, but that’s off topic. So, between 8-20 I only went into churches at Christmas, and occasionally with my grandma when she came to stay or I went to stay with her. I only went to one wedding, so it was literally annually at Christmas – once with school, and once with family.
I thought going to the literal building was what was important and that being in it once a year was enough to make me a Christian.
Well. I have since learnt what it means to be the church. God actually meant for us – His people, Christians – to be the embodiment of the church. It’s not the building that is important. I think that’s kind of the message Jesus came to share. Ish. Not really – but He taught it along the way of His actual plan of being on this Earth. (Salvation being the thing He actually came for. Not to teach it, to give it.)
So we are the Church. Everything we do, we do as the Church. So we need to live like we do on Sunday, every day. That doesn’t mean quitting your job and going to the physical building and listening to teaching every day, it means living your life as a sacrifice to God. Being His presence in situations where He is unseen. Living your every action for Him. Praising Him in the good moments and the crap ones too.
You know, there are so many rubbish things going on in the world. Slavery, poverty, injustice, businesses closing, global warming, running out of milk just as you make a brew. You know… extremes, and every day things. They’re rubbish. And you know what Jesus asked us to do? Be like Him. And you know what I think Jesus would’ve done? Worked to meet the need in front of Him. Whatever it was. Going to the shop for milk. Working an extra shift to sponsor a child in Bangladesh. He was exemplifying what we need to do as the Church. Every day.
4. Church is where we celebrate.
The most frequently used example is this… At a football match, or pretty much any sporting occasion for that matter, when your team scores or does something good, you jump to your feet, you shout phrases of exclamation, you pump your fist in the air, and you may even hug your neighbour. For some bloke that kicked a ball in a net. Like, really, I was doing that when I was like six. I get excited about a God who loves and cares for me. He works all things – really really good, and really really bad – in my life for my good. He uses whatever happens as a positive. Even if it’s bad for years. He will use it. He loves me. He looks out for me every second, every minute, every day. He is everywhere, all the time, and knows my every thought, every action, every word I say. He doesn’t do it out of duty – He does it out of love. And I think that is worth celebrating. Church is a place where we get to all come and bring our gift of celebration and lay it at His feet, as one voice. How powerful is that? How much must He relish that moment when His beloved children come to His feet, and lay it all out, all the good, all the bad, and just sing His praise. Thank Him for everything He is doing in our lives and the lives of those we love.
I always think about how much I love it when people praise me for my work. For something I have written, or organised. And how much it means to me, and then think about how much more God does, and how much He orchestrates and how much praise He deserves. Realistically, it’s way more than we could ever give Him, but it’s pretty cool when we come together and just give Him our all.
5. Church is where the unexpected happens.
This time seven years ago I was in my last year of sixth form, looking to move to Preston in September. I never imagined that I would still be here seven years later. But God does crazy things in our lives, leads us down roads we never thought to tread, and guides us towards people who change everything for us forever. I would never have had the opportunity to learn all the things I have learned if it wasn’t for church. I would never have grown into the person I am today without church. I would never have met the people I am now closest to if it wasn’t for church.
Thing is, that happens in life, but it also happens in church. You can turn up to church one morning with a certain expectation, and by the end of it you are emotionally wrecked and realise how much God is capable of in your life. We had, a few weeks ago, a guy in our church who had had a stroke, and was unable to talk properly. Suddenly in worship he found himself singing his heart out. God had brought back his voice and enabled him to use it again. A year or so ago, we had an offering for a gift day which was to raise money to buy a building we now own. Someone threw in some car keys to the offering bucket and decided to give their vehicle to the cause. Seriously, who expects these things?! Not me, that’s for sure! But God sees them coming, God put people in certain places at certain times so that He can move through them. It’s often unexpected. We just do not see them coming. And then suddenly, we are in the moment, doing it.
We don’t need to come prepared, we don’t need to come with skills, and lists of previous experience, we just need to come willing. Willing to give it all and be the move that God wants to make. However unexpected it is.
6. Church is all about LOVE.
Now, I do not mean this in a hippy style, “peace and love guys, that’s all that’s important” way. No, no, no. I mean this –
1 John 4:8
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God literally is the embodiment of love. It’s all He knows how to do. Everything He does is in love.
And we, the Church, are called to be like Him, therefore we are called to LOVE. In everything we do – love. In every meeting – love. In every coffee – love. In every email we write – love. In every picture we create – love. In every meeting we chair – love. In every bedtime story we tell – love. In every breakfast we make – love. In every “hello” – love. In every “how are you?” – love. In every “can I help you?” – LOVE!
Love is so important. And when each of us puts love into action, when every individual decides to act on it, that’s when we see breakthrough. Because if every individual does it, then the whole world will eventually see it. That’s what the church is. The embodiment of love.
I’m still learning more and more each day what Church really is, and what it is to me. But for now, these six points are what I have gathered together and what I think church is all about.