First-time Churchgoers Ask: "Why do you love the Church?"
I’m thinking about attending church for the first time. What is your favorite thing about it?
Most people, in any season of life, will tell you the best thing about Church is the fellowship. That’s a churchy-word for “social life.” And this brings up two important issues to address; both the people and the language. One thing you’ll experience as you enter into Christian-church-world is that the folks involved often have their own jargon and lingo. This is not meant to sound elitist or exclusive at all…as if they know the language and others don’t. No, church folk have been reading the Bible a while, hopefully, and what a person reads (or watches or listens to) often taints their expressions of speech. I recall participating in the Cincinnati Writer’s Group as I was compiling one of my books: My peers and editors could easily tell if I was reading my favorite author, Charles Dickens, in my spare time. His writer’s-voice affected my sentence structure and vocabulary to the point where I needed to break from his novels while I crafted my own work.
Congregations become like family. During many seasons of my life when I was called away from my relatives and hometown, my first priority was to locate a church that matched my beliefs, lifestyle and personality. These people then quickly became surrogate family members—many are still my dearest friends to this day. Yet as a newcomer to The Church, you must also be aware of the reality of these people called “church family.” They won’t be perfect. Like your own family, it’s not always smooth-sailing, relationally, with well-behaved children and elders; like-minded and serene pew-sitters. In real relationships, diversity, challenge and disagreement often enhances our growth and maturity: “Iron is made sharp with iron, and one man is made sharp by a friend” (Proverbs 27:17, NLT.) This fact is probably the most important for you to understand. Church is filled with imperfect people. There is only one perfect person…and we gather in our Christian churches to celebrate him (Jesus Christ.) It’s also important not to elevate pastors or leaders in churches to a status or image they will not be able to live up to. No one on a pedestal can stand there for long; humans were never designed to. Priests, pastors, deacons and elders are people, not gods. If you attend Church, be sure to put Jesus on his pedestal and leave all others in their proper place at the foot of his cross. That said, if you perceive a person in church-leadership operates from a autocratic, condescending position, leave that church immediately. The Church is not to be a dictatorship. Christ is the only King of the Christian and his Church.
Your church-hunt is the most important investigation of your life. Where you decide to attend and which “flock” (another churchy word) you join, will affect you in the deepest part; your spirit. Be sure you choose a place where the Bible is regularly being read, studied, sung and prayed. God’s book must be primary blueprint of a church. That said, the foundation and cornerstone of a Christian church is Jesus Christ alone. If he is not the center of all worship, I would question the church’s doctrine. Doctrine (the church’s beliefs) will also be important—you must know the depths of your own doctrine (what you believe) first, then find a Bible-based church that parallels your convictions. You will struggle to agree with the culture of that group if your beliefs and theirs differ. Case in point: if immersion is your conviction regarding water baptism, you will struggle inside a church that accepts other forms such as sprinkling, pouring, etc. Finding a church is a lot like finding a spouse. You must choose with wisdom: knowing yourself and what you need; and knowing them.
My favorite part of church is the safety and peace it gives me. As a woman alone in the world, I need both of these things before I’m able to thrive. I bless you as you find your way to a new kind of extended family waiting for you to arrive.
Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Send your inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030. For more information and resources, please visit www.askpastoradrienne.com or the “Ask Pastor Adrienne” YouTube channel for videos and insights.