Changing churches is tough. Sadly, conflict within churches made this front pew kid sit in a lot of different front pews throughout childhood. (It’s terrible when Christians don’t act like Christians, but that’s for another post.) I worshiped God in the auditoriums of mega-churches and the living rooms of home churches. My family even helped start a new church, but then we moved to another state and began the search yet again. Again, we went through the awkward first few Sundays trying to remember the names of the people we met last week, sizing up the offered ministries, hoping the church is a good fit because the people are just so darn nice to us, we’d feel rude not to come back. Thankfully, I was never embittered by any church I attended, and choosing a church to attend was a first priority when I moved around as an adult. Choosing to leave each one was difficult, mostly when it meant leaving behind people who had welcomed and invested their interest in me. But even when a person leaves a church, they never leave the Church.
The Church (the collection of Christ’s followers) is more powerful than a church (a building where people gather to worship). Though separated by physical distance or personal preferences, all Christians share salvation through Jesus. This is a powerful, uniting force, and, amazingly, makes extremely different people do incredibly similar things. Acts 2:42 describes the activities of members of the early church as such: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” I’m not a scholar on First Century Church Life, so I don’t know what exactly happened when the earliest Christians worshiped. But the basics of worship – learning about Jesus’ message, spending time together and caring for each other, sharing meals, and reaching God through prayer and praise – well, they haven’t changed much over 2,000 years. Despite the differences among Christian denominations (the “top 35” by membership size are described here), all Christians are equally valued by God and have Christ within them. Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Salvation unites men and women, princes and paupers, Alaskans and Australians.
I’m a relative newcomer at my current church. It is the home church of my fiance, and his family is deeply rooted there. On this past Sunday the church celebrated its 125th Anniversary. It was indeed a special Sunday with the presence of former pastors and congregants as well as other unique touches, but the songs we sang, the fellowship we shared, and the prayers we lifted were all meant to honor God and bind us closer together. Chosen verses for the occasion included Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Besides the chance to worship God, the point of church is to support the Church. We pray for each other, we praise God together, and we potluck like nobody’s business. (We were instructed to break bread together, right?)
The uniting bond of salvation among Christians has always given me courage to try a new church as I’ve felt led. It’s a supernatural feat for this introvert to enter a building full of smiling, handshaking strangers. How can this be? Well, just like the Powdermilk Biscuits mentioned on A Prairie Home Companion, the Bible in my arms and the Holy Spirit inside me “give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.”
Photo credit: http://www.penwag.org/december-potluck-challenges-revealed-and-super-stash-sale/