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It seems like it would be easy to walk out our faith at church, but I’ve found it to be one of the hardest places? So what can we do to change that?
Disclaimer: This blog post topic is relating to the physical concept of a church. While writing this, we wanted to make sure that we acknowledged those who have been hurt by the church. It is an incredibly real and painful situation, and we understand that church as an organized religion is not for everyone. Throughout this article, we also want you to know that the Church is also the Kingdom of God. We are all the Church! We do not have to go into a physical building to see or experience God.
Church might seem like the easiest place to walk out our faith, but I’ve found it to be one of the most challenging. It was so easy for me to put on a smile and go through the motions each week. I wasn’t entering into the presence of God. I wasn’t even expecting God to meet me in church. But over the last few years, I have found this hour or two a week to be the most life-giving time. The majority of this shift came from a change in my own mindset: I had to change how I was thinking about church and what my expectations were of it.
I had to evaluate and make sure I was at the church that worked best for me. Every church is going to be a little bit different and that is so okay! Actually, it’s more than okay. It’s really beautiful the different ways that people worship the Lord and gather together in love. So try church-hopping for a while. Ask questions, find out what kind of programs and groups they have. Test out if you want a bigger church or a small intimate setting. Try different styles from more traditional to very youthful and modern. Another thing I suggest while looking for a new church is to hop on their website before you go. Every church usually has a statement of beliefs on their website, and I know that I want a church that isn’t going to conflict with my personal beliefs. This process can be so intimidating and quite honestly, a little discouraging. You might not feel it at the first couple of churches you go to, just keep in mind no church is perfect. It is led and created by humans. So try to find one that makes YOU feel comfortable, and one that you feel like you could see yourself sticking with for a while.
Make this place your community. It is so so easy to go through the motions if you go in, sit, and leave. I’ve done that so many times, and not only is it lonely, but I’ve found it to be a little pointless. The Lord created us to be in community with each other, to have people loving us, uplifting us, and holding us accountable.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17
Small groups are a great way to form community in the church. It is also such a comforting way to help make a big church feel smaller. It gives you a group of people to do life with and to know you on a deeper level.
I always thought of church as a place to look nice and push all of my problems down while I was there. I needed to show myself as the “good Christian” I was being. I felt the need to be perfect. Church should be anything, but that! It has been so freeing for me to make it a place where I am distraught when I need to be. When I have kept myself together all week, and I can come, completely a mess, and release myself of the pressure to “be okay.” I have cried in the back during worship, more times than I can count. I have run-up to a friend or mentor and broken down and poured out my heart. I have come not having showered in over a week, in sweats, a t-shirt, and a messy bun – depressed, confused, and angry. Allow yourself the freedom to come as you are, and to show what you are going through. God meets you right where you are.
Bring a journal, a Bible, a Bible journal, or all three to church(Seriously life-changing!). If you don’t have one, pull out your phone. A lot of churches also have extra bibles and journals that you can borrow or even sometimes keep. The physical act of pulling out your Bible has made a huge difference for me. I personally prefer having a Bible journal. These are Bibles with extra-large margins so that you can take notes alongside the verses and chapters. Not only does it make taking notes and reading along so much more active, instead of just passively listening, but also it can be SO encouraging to go back later and read those notes as a reminder or a source of encouragement.
Something that was transformational for my church experience was going to the back of the room to worship. I know that not everyone connects with the Lord best through song and that is totally okay! The Lord speaks to us all in unique and beautiful ways, and worshiping doesn’t always have to be through song. But for me, I enjoy going to the back during worship songs so I can do whatever I need to do and spend that time intentionally with the Lord. I raise my hands, get on my knees, sing as loud as a can with the biggest smile on my face, sit on the floor when I need to cry out to the Lord, and sometimes just stand in silence taking in God’s presence. No matter how you do worship, no matter how you connect with the Lord, I encourage you to focus on that. Do what works for you, and find your favorite way to do it at church.
Church can be so incredibly life-giving. It can be a place of renewal and restoration. Above all else, it should be a place of acceptance and love. This is not going to be a “one type fits all” scenario. We are all uniquely and wonderfully made. So bounce around, test things out, make church your home in your own way.
You are so good. Thank you for inspiring these places of community to be brought up in your name. Thank you for sending your Son to tear the veil of the temple, so that we can come here and enter into Your presence completely messy, broken, and imperfect. I know that you meet us where we are, Lord. You meet us whether we are singing of the wonderful things you have done, or angry and confused at the events happening to us or around us. I pray for any pain that the church has caused, that above all, you be in the center of it and bring restoration and healing. I pray that the church is a place of community, love, and acceptance. Thank you for your never-ending unfailing love.
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