Before I became a Christian, I didn’t know what Church, represented by the local church, looked like at all. Maybe I had a vague impression, though to be honest, Church as far as I was concerned was just a typical church building, I didn’t even get into the theology of it being a people!
This is what I mean:
- I knew church involved about singing hymns, but I had no idea we had this thing we call contemporary Christian music.
- I knew the Bible existed obviously, but I didn’t realise there were a plethora of translations out there all trying to help us understand God’s Word better. I thought every Bible had a ton of ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and phrases like ‘sayeth the Lord’.
- I thought that every minister had to wear a dog collar and didn’t know we could listen to some exciting, charismatic preachers … you know, like me!
When I started to discover more about the church, I remember being shocked to the core when I learned about this really odd thing called ‘speaking in tongues’. This was almost the first and final straw in my early tentative relationship with a real church community. “You bunch of cultish weirdos” was indeed a phrase that crossed my mind, but I somehow stopped it being said out loud.
I got over this shock eventually, through learning and understanding, but by most importantly getting to know that even though the people at my local church did this frankly bizarre thing, they were actually okay and I could have sensible conversations with them and feel genuinely accepted for maybe the first time in my life.
So I got to like this church, no love this church community (that is Freedom Church), despite my significant misgivings at the start.
Where would I be now? Who would be leading Freedom Church now, if I’d let my personal preference for something a bit more ‘normal’ be my primary decision making factor?
Instead, I let my love for Christ and the exciting life I knew He had planned for me be the thing that kept me connected. I quickly discovered very early in my Christian walk that there really isn’t a perfect church.
“If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all, and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us. All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, give themselves to the Lord’s people … As I have already said, the church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s” – Charles Spurgeon (sermon, Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, 5th April, 1891)
It’s incredibly easy to fall into a consumerist approach when it comes to committing to a local church.
- Do I like the worship style?
- Is the preaching entertaining enough?
- Is that church down the street a better fit?
What we’re doing when we begin to ask questions like this is we’re allowing a secular market mindset to influence our spiritual lives and without realising it our faith becomes less about knowing and serving God, and more about finding a community that serves me and my desires.
As a slight aside, it’s actually okay to graciously challenge something you feel might not be right in your church community, but it’s not right to leave it just because you disagree with a few things.
If you’ve truly captured the heart of what it is to be a part of a church family, then just like a healthy family should, you talk about it, you share your heart and through that you may see change, which is for the better.
But on the flip side, sometimes, again like in a healthy family you’ve just got to go with what Mum and Dad have said. And that is especially true in a large church setting, where the family analogy can get stretched because with a large group of people, you’re always going to get those who don’t agree and you’d never move onto to actually doing something, you’d end up in an endless cycle of conversation.
In a local church, you have God positioned people with the gift of leadership that are to lead the people – that’s the Biblical model.
My main point is this: rather than us trying to form communities around our own preferences, we must allow ourselves to be formed by God and the people that He has positioned with us.
*This series of blog posts are based on a sermon series delieverd by me at Freedom Church in March 2018. In turn, this series is based on a book: Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken. You can view part #1 of the sermon series below: