“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)
I have attended a large church for some time. And I really like the church–I do. I like the pastor. I like the worship team. I like their beliefs. I feel God there. Most days. But the sense of “largeness” can easily make me feel lost. I can miss church for a couple months–and no one even knows I am gone.
My family has been missing more church than I would like–we are “hit or miss” and I have listened to more of the pastors podcasts or church web broadcasts to make up the difference. I don’t share this as an example, as I believe everyone–especially those who are leaders of ministries–can benefit from being in church. However, with my family’s various health issues it has become more and more difficult.
And when I put forth a ton of effort, and then it just. . . feels. . . empty, I confess, I wonder, Why did I bother? My family and I will “pay the price” the rest of the day because of struggling to get there–and yet we have nothing to show for it. (So it seems.)
That is not the right attitude. I know it. It’s not about what we receive, but what we give, right? It’s a place to worship God, not an exchange–my time for His blessing.
Theologically, I know all this. And yet, when there are thousands of people at a service, the mask is easiest to put on. I am not going to share my struggles during the 30-second-turn-around-and-shake-someone’s-hand introduction, Between my own illness and now homeschooling my son, Bible studies and special events are non-existent in my life.
That is not the fault of the church. They just cannot currently meet the needs life is throwing at me.
Recently, we went to church at a little church around the corner. My son has attended AWANA’s there in past years and it’s a small neighborhood church like the one I grew up in. Elderly ladies wear orthopedic shoes with polyester pants.
The elderly gentleman gave me a big bear hug when he handed me the day’s program. The bulletin had a list of people to pray for “Martha’s mom is in the hospital again. Please pray for her. Pray Jimmy gets a new job soon. . . ”
It felt precious. How ironic. Because, growing up, this was the kind of church I wanted to escape from and go to the more glamorous, contemporary, large church.
But here there were no masks. There were conversations after church–around the back counter with the lemonade and coffee and donuts. There were not any angry people in the parking lot who were mad about getting cut off. The pastor came over and welcomed us personally. The pastor actually realized we were not regular attenders!
It felt genuine. Caring. The moms and dads were friendly–the grandmas and grandpas were sweet. On Easter, they had an egg hunt.
It felt like somewhere I would like to be. Somewhere I would like my son to be.
We all have days when we don’t know if we are “getting enough” out of church. God does want us to go with an open heart. And yet, He also stirs our hearts when He wants us to be someone where He thinks we can not only bless others, but also share in each other’s sufferings. You have to know someone is suffering to share in it, right? And, sometimes we must go where people are willing to listen.
If you are not feeling excited about going to church, have you considered that perhaps God is calling you somewhere new? I believe God wants us in a church body, so if you are not content (or even feel scorned) where you are at, please don’t assume all churches are the same. God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Churches change. Don’t get them confused.
Prayer: Lord, lead me to where I am supposed to be to serve You. Keep my heart and my mind open to Your direction and give me wisdom to know when to stay where I am at, or to take a step elsewhere with confidence that it is Your leading. Amen.
About the author:
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She is gradually learning how to balance motherhood, family, illness, and ministry, but she still knows it will be a lifetime lesson. You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop.
Have you changed churches before? How did you come to the conclusion that it was a prompting by God and not a discontent emotion of yours?
This is a wonderful video produced by a church about all the masks we wear–especially to church! I encourage you to watch it–especially if you have ever been disappointed by a church because you felt people were not being themselves, but too uppity. It is a nice reminder that our human nature tends to put on a mask, but we are capable of taking it off. -Lisa