Last night I darkened the door of a church for the first time in years. I believe the last time I entered a sanctuary was in the summer of 2006 in Finland.
To set the record straight, I haven’t stayed away from church because of an attempt to avoid God. I like Him.
There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t gone to church. One was the language barrier I encountered in Finland. Another was pure burn out on my part.
But perhaps the main reason I stayed away was that I didn’t want to meet up with many of God’s people. In my toasted condtion I felt that they would minimally be a nuisance. At their worst, I thought, they would do me great harm
Obviously I haven’t held a high opinion of church goers in recent years. I don’t want to go into a diatribe against my bretheren here, though. And yes, they are my brethren because I am a believer in Jesus Christ.
However, my wife basically dragged me out the door last night. I went only because she wanted me to.
My first impressions were those of an anthropologist. I noted how I didn’t recognize any of the new music, except in one case where one new refrain was blended with an old hymn.
I looked around and thought that I knew the drill here. The meeting hall looked like what I had experienced in my former church going life. The people looked like typical American Christians.
Then the preacher was introduced. I knew him to be a high officer in a Christian organization I had been involved with in my younger days. I thought I knew what to expect : three points and a prayer and a tight little message wrapped up in banalities.
Was I ever surprised! His message was entitled “Don’t Waste the Pain”. Yes, there were three points, but they were hardly banal. This man shared deep from within his heart about the suffering he and his family had gone through because of the death of their teenage boy. He talked about what this kind of suffering meant to him and to us. This man scratched where I itched.
What was perhaps the most poignant point he made was the need for believers in Jesus Christ to open themselves to other Christians in their suffering. “Give them a chance to be the body of Christ,” he said.
His tone was that he had no illusions about the church. He gave an example of how indeed the church does make some people uncomfortable. But if this man in his suffering can give other believers a chance, then so can I. I think I’ll start casting my shadow on chapel doors again.