I keep going to the same church. I could go to another cooler, more hip, more entertaining one. But, I keep staying in this one. Let me tell you about my church. I go to a church that is small. A church where the congregation is older, more traditional. I go to a church where the praise and worship band is not really very great– we miss a note sometimes; we are off key sometimes. I suppose i should add that I am part of that worship band and I am often the one missing notes and singing off key. Our praise band is not what I would call very entertaining. I go to a church where the preaching is ok. Our church doesn’t have a great charismatic orator (sorry Pastor). He stumbles and stammers over his words sometimes; I don’t always “get something” out of the message. I sometimes have conflict with people in my church. Sometimes it’s my Pastor. My church doesn’t have the big programs that target my felt needs.
Why do I go? I mean, frankly, I could have all the things I want in a church somewhere down the road: more people my age; more programs to meet my needs; better, more entertaining music, led by a hip worship leader. I could go to a church where there would be no conflict; at least not that I would have to deal with. In a big church I could go in, be entertained by the music, get goosebumps from the “presence of the Lord,” hear a dynamic message, and go to Noodles afterward for lunch.
So, why am I still there? Oh, I have been tempted to leave; on a number of occasions. I even tried out a couple of churches a few times. But, I keep coming back to my church.
Here is what I think may be the cause of my continuing to return to the same church week after week; year after year: I am maturing. Maturity in the Christian life does not come from entertaining music, great teaching, or “holy goosebumps.” Maturity comes through inconvenient faithfulness. No sermon can make you faithful, even the really good ones. No one gets faithfulness by having their felt needs met through practical programing. One gets faithful by continuing to stick with one’s church even when it doesn’t feel good; even when there is conflict; even when you are “not being fed.”
One of the ways I have come to realize I am maturing in Christ is that I am learning to feed myself. I am reading the scriptures and spiritually enriching books for myself. Also, I came to realize that in the many years I have been a Christian, I have been fed… lots. And maturity asks of me to begin to find ways to, not only feed myself, but help feed others. At the end of time Jesus will say to those blessed by the Father, “I was hungry and you fed me.” Could it be Jesus is talking about being faithful to share with others the spiritual knowledge and resources he has given me?
When I was attending graduate school, I went to an awesome church. I gained so much rich Christian knowledge at that church. I cannot remember a time when I was not moved by the worship there. When I moved away to another state and got my first job, I visited several churches and could not find a single church to match up to what I had there. So, I called the pastor of that awesome church and told him of my dilemma. His response still echoes in my head: “You don’t go to a church for what you can get, but for what you can give.” I have never forgot that. That was about fifteen years ago and I have yet to find a church that “feeds” me in the way I was “fed” at that church, but I have been a part of three churches (in the three states I have lived since grad school) where I have grown more mature and more faithful and, hopefully, more like Jesus.
I must add that I also find that I do get things from my church. You see, another benefit of staying faithful to a church is that the people of that church become like family. A great preacher; awesome, hip worship, could never give me the kind of love I feel from my church family. Thank God for my church!