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Monday, September 23, 2013

Goin' Back to Church???

Last week was "National Back to Church Sunday." It got me thinking. What does back to church mean to you? How does it feel deep inside when you hear those words: back to church? Most of us know those people who claim to love God, to even have accepted Jesus as their savior, but who want nothing to do with church. Heck, maybe you are one of those people. Maybe the idea of church fills you with latent pain. Maybe with anxiety. Maybe you picture walking in the door and being judged. Maybe bitterness wells up inside of you as you recall all the hypocrites you've dealt with at church. Maybe you just want to lay low and avoid the drama.

And little wonder. The church is full of wounded, messed-up people. 

People not so different from you and me.

But the church is also the expression on earth of the body of Christ. And it is through that body that we can experience the fullness of Christ. The church helps us grow in maturity, in the word, and in relationship with God. The church gives us a place to minister and be ministered to. It joins us together with a group believers so that we can increase our impact in outreach to others. And it gives us a place where we can worship in a group and experience God in different ways than we do when we are alone.

So how do we find a good church? Not a perfect church of course, because that doesn't exist. But a relatively healthy church where we can grow and thrive. Here are my top tips.

1) Find a church that exudes love and acceptance
2) Find a church that focuses on Biblical teaching
3) Find a church with a culture that fits you

A culture? Aren't we talking about church? Didn't I already define the "culture" in the word "Biblical?" Actually, no. Not at all. Much of what legalistic churches try to promote as scriptural requirements for worship are really more about culture and personality than holiness. The truth is, healthy Bible-based churches come in all shapes and sizes.

There are big churches, small churches, contemporary churches, traditional churches, casual churches, and fancy churches. There are simple, cozy churches and flashy, high-tech churches. There are biker churches and cowboy churches. Messianic and Mennonite churches. And don't even get me started on music. Church music comes in about every style. Chants, hymns, gospel, country, pop, and heavy-metal, just to name a few.

These days the under forty crowd often has difficulty fitting in at a fundamentalist church that is stuck in the 1960s. But they might really enjoy a casual, seeker-friendly church with an emphasis on the arts and social justice. Or they might be drawn to the seemingly complete opposite, a high liturgical church that focuses on the wonder, mystery, and awe of encountering the divine. 

My guess is, if you don't like church, you just haven't met the right one.

Maybe you think that I'm being rather glib about this whole issue. After all, there are only two churches within a half-hour drive of your house, and you wouldn't be caught dead in either of them (well, okay, maybe dead, but that's the only way.)

Try some youth group style bonding games
 if you're brave
Here's a thought. Start a small gathering of believers in your home. Despite the lovely picture above, the Bible never says a church has to meet in a building with a steeple. There are no requirements that they feature a trained worship band or a prepared sermon. Try the early church method. Have a meal and some fellowship (i.e. hang out and have fun). Allow time for sharing and prayer. Et voila. Church. And considering the fact that the "sabbath" was actually Saturday, I don't even think you necessarily have to meet on Sunday.

Church is us. It's you and me together. It's simple really. We encourage and uplift each other. We support one another in this Christian walk. And when you think of it that way, I think you'll be happy to go "Back to Church." 

My new novel coming out later this fall, Dance from Deep Within, examines the issues of church cultures, wounded believers, and what sort of Christianity is relevant to change our world today. Keep an eye out for it. 

In the meantime, here's an awesome and highly entertaining video to illustrate what I'm talking about.

Describe your dream church? What sort of culture would best fit you? Does your current church fit you? If not, do you have a different reason for staying there?

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