Recently I’ve been overwhelmed and overjoyed even amidst my struggles adulting here in Texas, at the wonderful blessing of community that I have found. I realized recently how all of this came about… a huge part being the fact that I sought out a church immediately after moving to Austin six months ago, and made myself very involved very quickly. Naturally it’s hard to find a great community without seeking one out, (not that you are guaranteed it even then) but I realized one of my most viewed blog posts is about how it’s not necessary to go to church.
Of course, after feeling the rich blessing that is a healthy community, I set about to read through my former post, and break apart my arguments. I was then, fully prepared to articulate how hypocritical my post was, and how I was manipulating my words to reflect where I was at that point in time spiritually.
I was taken aback however, when I read the words at the end,
”Before you say it, yeah, I can be a total hypocrite on this topic a lot of the time, but I want to admit that, and say that I don’t think church going Christians should be given any more credit than Christians who don’t”
… I realized the post I wrote back in February was written to a person like who I am now, not knowing of course how I would change and grow in my faith – a growth that was spurred on by the church I’ve been attending. I read through the post a second time, and realized in a way I was no different than I am now. I have no higher standing with Christ, I was a broken, prideful, ignorant sinner then, with my one saving trait knowing that Jesus was my only saving grace and now, I am still that: A broken sinner knowing that I am not saved by my works, but because of Jesus. That includes the act of going to church, which doesn’t make me a ‘better Christian’. Is there even such a thing? Is the me today any better than the me that wrote that post back in February 2018? Nope. not at all.
We have all fallen short of the glory of God and the moment we start thinking we can somehow earn that grace that he so freely gives is the moment we are a pharisee. Yes, Jesus came for the pharisees too; to as many as would hear his words and receive Him that is. Our walk with Christ is a journey, and I wouldn’t be who I am now without who I was in February, or without who I was back when I was in a cult. My Christian faith has been a journey since I left that group back in 2014, but my one constant since then has been that I was seeking truth, and that truth is Christ, it’s always been Christ, and my understanding of him and relationship with Him has ebbed and flowed but through it all He hasn’t changed, the Truth has been the same. Jesus is the same Savior He always was and always will be, but the lense in which I’ve viewed Him has changed. I’ve gone through seasons of doubt, of anger, of appreciation, of running from him, and running back to him but He’s always been there seeking me out and giving me an abundance of grace.
I say all that because I want to point out that although my views have changed a little, namely that I now believe the church – or a good wholesome Christian community – is crucial. I made points in my former post about how good things that church is ‘intended for’ can be found elsewhere… but as I wrote those words I wasn’t really seeking out that community and worship the way I alluded I was. In other words, I wasn’t eating my own medicine. I thought foolishly that I was somehow more spiritually mature because I’d seen the wolves in sheeps clothing and lived to tell the tale. I’ve seen brutally unhealthy churches and communities and I’ve seen the Bible misconstrued – religion misconstrued. So I was ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because some churches are cults doesn’t mean they all are (preaching to myself here). Where there are people there will be brokeness, but when Jesus is pointed to as the healer of that brokeness instead of a person, thing, or set of strange doctrinal beliefs, then I’d call that a pretty good church – brokeness and all.
You are an average of your closest friends. You are what you eat. You are what you think. So if you can fill your time with things that are honorable – things like going to church, and spending time with people who want to exude Jesus’s love and character, and the more that you read the words of the Gospel, then you can’t help but be a blessed. Even when it’s hard – yes even then – especially when it’s hard.
It’s like that old hymn ‘We’ll Walk in the Light’. Walking in the Light is so much more than sitting in an old pew or a bunch of folding chairs and listening to a man get up and preach. It’s about a day to day journey with Christ, with what He has for your life. That journey is a lot easier with a little help from people on the same journey, and church going isn’t all that, but it’s part of it.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.