Here’s a little secret that I’ll let you in on – sometimes it is very difficult to enjoy Church. I know, I know! I’m a pastor! I’m supposed to enjoy Church! Often for the Smith Clan, getting to Church on a Sunday morning involves a frenetic typhoon of clothes, toothpaste, and sermon pages, which slowly makes its way towards the front door until it explodes out onto the street.
What should we do when Church is difficult to enjoy? Does it mean that we are having a subpar experience? Is it somehow less ‘spiritual’ when you get home and realise that you have spent nearly all your time there worrying about your kids beating the other kids to death with the pew Bibles?
There’s a deadly mentality that has infected many evangelical Christians in Churches all around Australia – consumerism. We have unprecedented access to all kinds of entertainment these days – I remember when I first flicked through the things I could watch on Netflix. Show, after show, after show. If I didn’t find one program enjoyable, that’s ok, I can just turn it off and try the next one.
Christians can walk into Church with the same mentality – Church has to prove itself to us before we become willing to invest ourselves in it. The music must lift my spirits, the preaching must be ‘powerful’, and the fellowship must be ‘encouraging’ and ‘authentic’ (not too authentic, please – keep your personal issues at home).
If my experience of Church doesn’t tick these boxes, then I’ll continue to come (it’s the right thing to do!), but I’ll be unhappy. I’ll let myself soak in this unhappiness to the point where I will begin to see attending Church as a net loss in my week, something to be tolerated, until a better Church comes along. A better Church, with better music, better preaching, and better fellowship.
This me-centred approach to Church can completely undermine what Church is for – loving God, and loving one another. The gathered Church is the distilled Christian life – a place where God speaks, His people listen, and love and serve Him and one another. My focus should be on the worship of God and the good of others.
So when the music at Church sucks (and sometimes, it really, really can suck!), then I’ll sing my guts out. Why? Because the quality of the performance doesn’t affect the reality of the worship. When the preaching is cliched or lame, I’ll do my best to draw encouragement from it. I’ll wrestle with it and seek God’s blessing. When people seem weird and different, I’ll praise God that he hasn’t made the Church full of people like me.
Maybe then I’ll begin to understand the true nature of Church – it’s not there for my enjoyment, it’s there for God, his glory, and his praise. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to become bitter over the fact that Church isn’t better, we should be amazed by the grace of the one who is building this group of messy, fallen people into a beautiful bride for his Son, Jesus.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:1-16)