Why I Choose To Go To Church
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 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.
Many years ago, I attended a church that became increasingly legalistic. They made rules about everything from skirt lengths to whether or not mothers of young children should work. If members broke the rules, they might be reprimanded by the pastor, disfellowshipped or shunned. Many members were hurt and left the church.
These people still consider themselves Christians, but will not go to any church. They float out there, believing in God but staying away from church fellowship. I have met many other people who have left their churches because they have been judged, criticized, gossiped about, or verbally abused.
My bad experiences in church:
- False rumors being spread about me
- Being judged and criticized for all kinds of things both to my face and behind my back
- Being put down for being poor or unemployed
- Having my feelings hurt by thoughtless or stupid people who were emotionally abusive
- Being temporarily disfellowshipped for disagreeing with questionable church policies
- Having pastors call me on the carpet for my supposed "sins"
- Being passed over or rejected for ministry opportunities for which I am both willing, trained, and qualified
- Experiencing in-fighting, struggles for control, judgement, criticism, and rejection while serving in ministry
Now, looking at the list on the right, you may be thinking, why would I ever want to go to a church? The truth is that the church is full of imperfect people and some wolves in sheep's clothing. I can guarantee that every church has people who will hurt us out of ignorance or malice. In a healthy church, however, there are also many people who are loving, caring, and sincerely want to live their lives according to Christian principles.
Christians are not perfect
Some people seem to think that Christians are supposed to be perfect or near perfect. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, for the most part, are weak, imperfect human beings striving but sometimes failing to live up to the principles in the Bible. Even the apostle Paul said he failed to do the right thing because of his human frailty no matter how hard he tried (Romans 7).
It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and dependence on God that we Christians can hope to live our lives as He did. Most Christians sincerely strive for excellence as best they can to sincerely live the Christian life.
The church’s view on hurts it has caused
Nowadays, the church has started to recognize that many people have been hurt by the church and are beginning to address these issues. For example, a new “introduction to Christianity” course called “H20” acknowledges that there are people who have been hurt by the church and apologizes for that.
Certainly, there are unhealthy churches who do harm, but many are striving to follow Christ as best they can. They make mistakes, but can admit them, institute changes, and make amends.
Do you attend church:
Why I go to church
I do not go to church because I feel obligated as a Christian to go. I am not looking for entertainment or trying to look good in the eyes of others.
I go because I want to worship God, learn more about Him, and serve Him in the company of other believers.
Benefits of church
Learning the Christian walk: I know I can find church services and sermons on TV and online. I can play Christian worship CDs/MP3s or go on YouTube. So why should I go to church? These services may be good, but they cannot match the benefits of being in a church under the care of a pastor or a pastoral team. Effective pastors gear their sermons towards the needs of their congregation. After services, I can talk about the subject matter with fellow Christians or the pastor.
Many churches also offer events such as seminars, special speakers, or one of my favorites, food, or combination of them. These events are learning opportunities and chances for social interaction.
Benefiting from corporate worship and prayer: I can worship or pray at home, but it is also inspiring and encouraging to sing and pray with a group of believers. I love the vibrant, upbeat new contemporary Christian songs and hymns that are presented in fresh new ways. I also may sing on a worship team or perform dance or a song in sign language.
Benefiting from pastoral and Christian care: There have been many times when I was in crisis that pastors and church leaders have sat in my living room and patiently listened to me go on and on about my problems. Churches and fellow Christians have provided me with financial assistance when I was unemployed. I have been helped in so many other ways by my fellow Christians from someone keeping me company during boring rounds of chemo to giving me rides to special events to helping me move to a new residence.
Building and having healthy relationships: In this busy world, it is hard to make friends and maintain relationships. Getting together seems impossible. At church, I can see my friends nearly every week and get to meet new people. When I was younger, I considered some people my mentors and tried to follow their good examples of healthy relationships and marriages.
Many churches now offer “small groups” to help people connect and grow in their faith. These groups met at various times from once a month to once a week. These groups gives people the opportunity to get to know other Christians, worship, pray, and grow in their faith and Bible knowledge.
Getting specific help: Some churches also offer groups that offer help in specific areas such as cancer, depression, addictions, or past emotional hurts. Others help people who are lonely or in crisis. The people in these programs often have specialized training in how to provide pastoral care and support.
Opportunities to serve: Some of the real highs and most satisfying experiences for me have been serving in ministries in the church - mostly as a vocalist, worship dancer, and sign language interpreter for the deaf. I am not a professional by any means and am not good enough to win any talent shows, but through the Holy Spirit, I can inspire, lead, and teach others about my Lord and spur them to love others as the scriptures say we should (Hebrews 10:24).
Dealing with the negative aspects of church
Many people leave the church after a bad experience that hurt them. In the past, I have done this, but find that it does not resolve anything. It just wrenches me away from people that I have bonded with and denies me the benefits of church fellowship.
Sometimes, I have been hurt not so much from the situation but because the church has failed to meet my expectations. In the past, I had offered my services in ministry and either was told I was not needed or was ignored. I was passed over for positions for which I was well qualified. I do talk to the people involved in the situation if I think it will help, but mostly I have learned to accept the way things are.
When things are not going well, I pray about it. I have seen many situations turn around over time. The legalistic church I spoke about earlier, for example, actually saw the error of their ways and made changes. The church has apologized to people who were hurt by its actions and has tried to make amends.
Through forgiveness, I have been freed of resentment and hurt from my bad experiences. I can enjoy the benefits of being in church without all the garbage and brokenness of past hurts.
I have also learned to develop a thick skin and do not get into a huff so easily. The Bible says that it is both wise and a blessing to overlook an offence ((Proverbs 19:11, 12:16).
I admit that there are a few people I might avoid at a church service or at Christian events because they are or seem to be judgmental, backstabbing, gossiping, or not to be trusted. I feel assured that God will deal with them in His time and I pray for them. I do not allow them to spoil the many benefits I get from attending church.
In the meantime, I plan to continue to attend a church in spite of its faults and hope that others who have been holding back will come and enjoy church with me.
© 2015 Carola Finch