The topic of church has come up a lot lately: in my own blog posts, in other articles I’ve been reading, in a class I’m the teaching assistant for, in conversations, and more. I intended to write about why I think church is so important, until I found something in an old notebook. This is a snippet of an un-eloquent, rambling prayer I wrote my freshman year of college.
It’s hard for me to go to church, honestly. Lately I’ve just really been wondering what good it is. Like [we talked about in some of my classes], why have so many Sundays of preaching produced so few spiritually mature Christians? I feel like I’m getting more out of writing all this than I may have gotten out of a sermon. I don’t know that for sure, of course, but I feel more like I’m talking to you. Maybe church is the right thing, and I’m sorry for not doing the right thing.
There’s a few things younger me should hear about church.
Dear College Freshman Brianna,
You’re right. Going to church is really, really hard sometimes. You’re busy, and honestly, there may be occasional Sundays when sleeping in is more beneficial to your overall well-being than going to church (but not nearly as many as you might think right now.)
Having the advantage of a few years, you should know this about your church-going experience: It will get worse before it gets better. I wish I could say otherwise, but it’s true.
Yet, even in the “worse” time, you should still go. Even though you will walk into church nervous and scared, coming in through the back entrance because the main one is far too intimidating, you will hear good messages. The style of worship will be different than you grew up with, and it will expand your understanding of the world and Christianity and God. You will attend a really awkward “young people” lunch, feel ignored and overlooked, and wonder why on earth you bother with church.
I’ve yet to find a direct command in the Bible saying, “Thou shalt go to church.” It’s not one of the Ten Commandments, and Jesus doesn’t specifically talk about “church” in the way we know it now.
But, younger me, there’s this: Jesus spent a lot of time with people, which is a large part of what church is about. It’s absolutely important to worship God, and you will do that in church (and elsewhere), but you will meet and experience the body of believers in church as well. Growing up, you’ve seen some of the bad parts of church, as well as some of the beautiful parts, and you will see those in the next few years too, but in new ways. The brokenness, the humanness, the imperfectness of the body; and the beautiful, the divine, the glory in the body.
You wrote, “Maybe church is the right thing, and I’m sorry for not doing the right thing.” I’m not sure God wants us to feel guilty for not going to church, but I think church is his design for how he wants believers to learn and grow together and from each other. Part of going to church isn’t about seeing what you can get from it (though it is important to listen to the sermons), but seeing what you can give to it.
Even though you feel too young and uneducated and inadequate, you have gifts. Discover them. Use them to serve your fellow church-goers. Just like you have tons of things to learn from them, they can probably learn a few things from you as well.
So get out of bed. Go to church.
And hang in there. There is beauty in the broken, even when the broken is the body of believers.
Til next time…
p.s. What would you say to younger you about church?