From the comments last week it's clear that many of us face challenges in relation to church, and these challenges are similar. So that's a good start: We're not alone.
For some of us we struggle to attend church in the first place. For others of us, we struggle with a range of complex emotions while there, including missing our spouse, envy of couples and families, and loneliness.
I thought I might start today with the challenge of trying to attend in the first place. So, let's unpack this one.
As I said in the last post, that was my struggle for a while. I yearned to be at church on a Sunday, where my tribe was gathered. In fact, I needed it because the rest of the week was so secular. Yet, while I did have some strong Christian friends outside of church, I struggled to actually attend church gatherings.
The situation was complicated by the fact my kids were young, so to get there I had to drag them out of the house at an early hour of the morning, and worry about settling them in. But it was Bryce's disapproval that most influenced me and made me stay home. And on the days I stayed home I was miserable because of what I was missing.
The problem was this:
The church was my family too. I was one flesh with them, for we are one body (1 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:16, 5:30). And we are one household (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 2:5).
So, while I was one flesh with my husband, family to him, and of the same household, I also belonged in that building, with that tribe, in the house of God on a weekend.
In other words, I did need to be there. That's how I see it now: We do need to be there, and we do need to fight for our church attendance. The church needs us.
In a famous story from the Gospels, Jesus was with the multitudes one day when he was told 'Your mother and brother are outside looking for you.' He could have dropped everything there and then and gone off to see these important people in his life, but no, he had a job to do. Instead, he said:
"Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And he stretched out his hand toward His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:48-50)
And from this we are to understand that the church is our family. We know it in principle, but it's good to be reminded of it.
We don't choose our family, they're given to us. And I do believe that God puts us in a church family too. Sometimes -- always? -- that family is imperfect. Sometimes they disappoint us, and sometimes we disappoint them. Sometimes we have to put boundaries around family relationships if they're toxic. But, in general with a reasonably healthy family we identify as a unit.
I've actually been reflecting on this feature of church as family, relating it to my own family. Here's my mum, step-dad, and I at a wedding last year. I also have two younger brothers, and a sister. I love them all dearly, but it's not a perfect family. My parents got divorced when I was nine, and each remarried. Not perfect, but we are a unit, and we love each other.
Well, there's something about a church family too. It's a unit. We have big siblings and younger siblings, mothers and fathers.
That unit does look different to, say, a Christian friend who you have coffee with, as there's a Godly placement that goes along with being part of a church family. I do believe God puts you in a church family, and you serve and support them. Even just showing up is your part in spreading the Gospel.
So, it's worth persevering, and I do believe that being part of that unit -- however tough it is -- is God's design.
With all that said, the next question is how to find a healthy church, and that's a whole other bottle of wine. A topic for one of the upcoming posts.
All for now. Feel free to share any thoughts you have in the comments.