Sunday, January 29, 2012

Week 75: Church - Why Bother?

In the Beginning…
Pic: Not my Church~
I grew up in a small village where everyone know who’s who and where’s where. During those days, there are only two landmarks to define our place; Balai Raya Kampung Stampin Iban (Community hall) and St. Margaret chapel. When I was a kid, attended services every Sunday was not an option, but rather it’s a must. There were distractions here and there such as Dragon Ball TV series showing on Sunday morning, football matches between villages just about 10 meters from church, friend’s invitation to explored new places in the jungle for fishing etc. so sometime I didn’t show up at least once per month, but most of the time – I’m a ‘faithful’ churchgoer.

As I grew a little bit older, I soon realized that going to church is more than praying together, tithing some money, getting baptize, memorize the Lord’s Prayer, singing hymns, shaking people’s hands, checking on girls, bragging new clothes, making sacrifices (reluctantly skipped watching Dragon Ball, Football match, fishing etc.), same old weekly routine and being a good person on Sunday – it’s about being faithful with others to worship God in one building. Well, almost correct, still shallow but that was what I believed.
Since then, my church-relationship was having its ups and downs. But overall, I still considered myself as ‘faithful’ to the church until…

There were period of time when I honestly examined my love-hate relationship with the Church that I simply felt that I’m get nothing out of it. Wasting my time, burn out my soul, and disappointed me a lots. First and foremost barrier that I encounter was hypocrisy! People dressed up holily, masked with smiling face, holding (not reading) the Bible ticker than my mathematics text book, sing songs loudly proudly only, gossip-free for the first few hours… you know what I mean, don’t you? Like every serious believers who for the first time expect a perfect church, with a perfect congregations and shepherded by perfect ministers – will soon drifted away from church and thought that ‘I can’t get nothing out of it’, therefore, decided not to come to church anymore. Perhaps you were like me. Perhaps you are like I was. Perhaps you’re just disappointed with church.
Come, let’s be honest. Come, let’s be open. Come, read some more…

As time goes by, my understanding on the important of church have increases (not complete). I was giving up but the Lord standing up. I disappointed with church’s ways but the Lord point me to just one way – Jesus Christ, God’s Son. I learned to not be faithful with the church, but rather, the right thing do is to be faithful with the God of the church. I re-realized that even though God lives in the heart of every believer, he also lives within the community of the church – even stronger, ever present among us (see Matthew 18:20). Just as being present at a live concert makes it much more exciting, participating with other believers in worshipping God makes it much more meaningful.

When I recalled back my ‘prejudice’ against church, I finds that I was so judgmental toward others and in the imperfections of it I tend to forget that I myself is not perfect, a forgiven sinner, and my love for God was shallow - close to superficial. I was failed to delight in the present of the Perfect God who choose the imperfect church govern by men; sinners saved like me by God’s grace through faith in Him alone. Today however, I can’t find anywhere else as close to satisfy as in the church in my communion fellowship with God and others. The psalmist writes, “The one thing I ask of the Lord – the thing I seek of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.” (27:4NLT)

Learn to Love
One particular book that I would recommend to you (if you ask) to rekindle your passion for God by experience Him in the church is by Philip Yancey, Church: Why Bother? My Personal Pilgrimage (this is where I got my title). In this Growing Deeper series, he shares his honest, unashamed personal experiences. He has learned 4 helpful perspectives for him to stop merely tolerating the church and instead learn to love it (summaries mine);

·        Looking Up
“I used to approach church with the spirit of a discriminating consumer. I viewed the worship service as a performance. Give me something I like. Entertain me… Church, though, should be the opposite of the theater. In church God is the audience for our worship… We should leave a worship service asking ourselves not “What did I get out of it?” but rather “Was God pleased with what happened?” Now I try to look up in a worship service, to direct my gaze beyond the platform, toward God.”

·        Looking Around
“… I made the mistake of intentionally seeking out churches composed of the people like me. I was looking for a congregation of my educational level, with my biblical background and my taste in hymns and liturgy… Now, I resigned myself to church as a necessary spiritual discipline… give me taste of wide diversity… I deliberately seek a congregation composed of people not like me.”

·        Looking Outward
“…I learned that the mission of the church extends to the needs of its own neighborhood. One of the reasons the congregation of such diversity worked well was that we banded together to reach out to the community around us. Actively serving others causes you to think less about serving yourself.”

·        Looking Inward
“I came to believe, truly believe, that God love me not because I deserve it but because he is God of grace. God’s love comes free of charge, with no strings attached. There is nothing I can do to make God love me more – or less… Now, when I attend church, I look inward and ask God to purge from me the poisons of rivalry and criticism and to fill me with grace. And I seek out churches characterized by a state of grace.”

The Body needs You
With few exceptions of those who misused the authority of the church and perhaps had twisted the Biblical teachings of the Scriptures – most churches or Christian Fellowships as a whole I see it as a place for honest sharing, for encouragement to stay strong in time of temptation and when face with persecution, and for godly counsel to deal with problems in life. Come back to church, will you? Worship God together. Be part of God’s Kingdom on earth. Romans 12: 4-5 says, “Just as one bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body, and we all belong to each other.”
We need Christ, we need each other, and the church needs you because the body of Christ is not complete without you!

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