Let’s say that you are at the point where you’re willing to go to church, you’re trying to read your Bible, and you are praying. What happens if there are days, weeks, and months where you appear to be remaining in the ‘reluctantly pew warming’ position?
Like it or not, God is sovereign and He can move mountains. He has the authority to harden hearts and soften them. He knows you intimately and He is well aware of the place you are in. Sometimes He comes in and abruptly changes things, other times He waits and works things out in a different way or on His timetable, and there are times that He does not alter our circumstances, but rather our response to them.
Chances are, if you are going to church, somebody is reaching out to you in one way or another. It’s a good idea to test the waters and participate in some activities and get to know people there. Might you still be in a place of disillusionment? Yes, that is possible, but one of the mysteries of the body is that regardless of how you are seeing yourself or others, God could be using you to minister to others even in what appears to be a dismal season. Do you have to like everyone or every activity? No. I would caution you to keep in mind that in the state of disillusionment, almost everything is painted with shades of grey and smells and tastes bad. Try not to be too hasty to quit things because you aren’t enjoying them.
What role does the church play in the life of the believer?
The church is a place where we can fellowship together. Many of us picture that as casual conversation or eating since those are commonly called fellowship. However, if that’s all you’ve had, you’re really missing out on the good stuff. Real fellowship means that you’ve got at least somebody there who is excited over the victories and blessings in your life and grieves with you during tragedy, doubt, or other difficult circumstances. This also means that these are the people who might be in a good position to pray for you, check in on you, and encourage you along the way.
Although this sounds good and well, I must be frank with you. It’s hard work on both sides. There will be some aspect of it that you probably won’t like. Maybe it is that these people start asking you to help with kids because they trust you. Maybe it is that you get bombarded with requests to serve in various ministries. Maybe you don’t want really like the idea of having someone know you well enough to hold you accountable. Maybe somebody starts making suggestions about decisions you should make and you don’t remember asking for their advice. There are plenty of things that can surface in this growing relationship with people at church that we have to work through.
In my journey, I have not been too excited about being vulnerable before other people at church. I keep a lot of things to myself and I have a history of choosing indifference in an effort to save face in front of peers. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of trusting people at church with details of my life. True confessions, although I’m better about this than I was years ago, it is still a trial for me. One of the last things I want to do is let this community of people see me broken or disillusioned or struggling. My first inclination is to move back or push away from God and the church. Yes, sometimes people have made suggestions to me or pointed out things I don’t like and don’t really want to hear.
Nevertheless, there are some unexpected treasures sitting in those pews if you are willing to practice loving on these people. Something changes from the inside out as you might simply be going through the motions week after week if you are asking God to do that mighty work in your heart. You actually begin to capture these wonderful glimpses of how God sees His people and why He loves them so dearly. Even the most cynical, skeptical heart can be moved.
By the way, if anyone happens to be checking out this series who says, I don’t wrestle with that, please pray for someone who does.