I have been known on the very pages of this blog to say that i don't get very much out of going to church. Well as all good heretics i'd like to recant and say that almost a year on from when i wrote my observations i'm starting to appreciate church in a whole new way...
I know that church has its problems, flaws, drawbacks, limitations and general crap moments, i've been going to church for over 30 yrs, but rather than dwell on those i'd like to suggest some reasons why i am really appreciating it and i'd like to hear from you too about what you think is right/good/fun/engaging about the church in your own context...
Last year we moved house, we did so for a whole variety of reasons but for me chief among those was finding somewhere i thought would help my wife's flagging christian faith. So before we decided on where we were going to move too we checked out and pretty much decidied on the church we'd like to go - thanks to sermon podcasts, websites and a couple of sneaky back row visits we made our church choice on and then eventually moved.
At this point i feel like the king of church consumption on the one hand - conducting market research to find the church i wanted and then moving to the area to be near it. On the other hand i didn't have much expectation of a case of meet the new church same as the old church. I think i had pretty much settled for church being somewhere to go which would benefit my wife and kids and therefore i would contribute to it as part of it as i always had but really it was at best a means to an end.
So what have i found helpful about church in the last yr that has prompted this recant...
1. teaching - when i've been in a church environment in which i've not agreed with the teaching it was fun to critique my thoughts and challenge myself as to whether i was just being disagreeable and what i really thought. Having been in a teaching environment for the last yr where i have found myself not only agreeing with much that is taught but finding that actually leads to me wanting to change, to discovering new ways of seeing God, myself, the world and doing something different in response. There is something very honest and very relevant about Jason Clark's teaching, where he holds a mirror up to how we are rather than who we like to think we are - which reminds me of a lot of Eddie Izzard but without the dress ;). [you can hear
Eddie, i mean Jason's talks here]
2. Rhythm - I've not really noticed before as to how helpful a regular rhythm it is to go to church. Church for me before has always been about experience - to learn something or to encounter God, to be prayed for, to socialise etc. These are all good things but most helpful is the space i have at least once a week in my otherwise me dominated routine to go and do something that doesn't immediately give me a buzz. To have space and time to spend orientating my life around God is a precious gift and to do that in a communal setting and here about how God is doing things in the lives of others and what others are doing for God just strengthens that space.
3. Service I've always helped out at all the churches i've been too - for me that's part of the deal of going along is to get involved. i've not quite realsied how serving others is a spiritual practice which means i'm more likely to be generous/kind/thoughtful/ in moments outside of church. What i've found most encouraging is connecting how the things i do help other people, i guess its not twigged before, service was a duty and now it feels more like a pleasure.
4. Mission - i'm also not so hung up doing church things at the expense of 'mission' as i've started to realise that what i do helps serve the mission of the church - i think before i've got stuck on mission being about individuals connecting with people/places and not really ever thought about how church helps in that process. Being able to have church which acts as a place to gather, share, practice, learn, together aids missionary life. Without somewhere to gather and do life together i seriously believe the mission of God's people starts to flag. Church is not just about sunday, it's one part of the life of the church but that life is helped by gathering in small and large groups to share God's story with each other and support and encourage each other to live out a christian life.
So what do you find helpful/encouraging about church?