I came across a very relevant article today which perfectly articulated my feelings at the moment, http://careynieuwhof.com/meets-my-needs/. Since moving twenty minutes drive away from our current church, I have spent the last year in a tug-of-war debate as to whether my family and I should leave, and move to a church closer to our new house, into a different community. For many people I’ve spoken to, it is a given – be part of the place where you live, get to know your neighbours, walk to your church, experience something new. I understand all those points, and agree with most of them, most of the time.
But here’s the problem: my current church has become my family – they have been with me through many of my hard times, and a few particular shared griefs. When I go on a Sunday morning, I get to speak to several of my brothers and sisters, and it lifts my spirits. More important than any self-satisfying reason, I feel of use. Not as much as I should be, but in little, hopefully valuable ways. So the church building has been condemned, so there have been years of deliberating about what to do, so there’s no minister, but this church is far from dead, miles from giving up. From the first day I went there, I saw that.
I have tried one church here, the one that everyone enthuses about. It’s busy, very visible in the local community and it’s got a choice of services every week.
But, every time I’ve been there, I’ve missed my family. I’ve doubted how I could possibly find a way of serving when so many others do it already.
I’ve done church shopping in the past, and as a student, it seemed the most important thing was whether someone would invite you round to dinner after the service. I had my own secret check-list of music, sermon, prayers and welcome. Every church I went to, I was hopeful that something magical would happen, but in the end, I didn’t settle until five years later, when I was married. Then, I regretted only going a couple of times and uncertainly drifting off somewhere else, when this one was clearly the place where I belonged.
Thank goodness you can’t apply that ‘check it out and then move on’ mentality when it comes to your marriage, your family or your friends. But if it is unacceptable in those circumstances, should it be permitted when you are considering a church? As the article above confirmed to me, church is not about meeting your needs or ticking a box. It’s about putting the needs of others above your own. It’s about glorifying and serving the One who it was created for.
At this time, I see that the best place for me and my family to do those vital things is where we are already. So there’ll be no casting my eyes around for something better, busier, richer, more impressive –
I choose the slightly flawed, fairly disgruntled, quite broken group of people that form my church because, with them, there’s a place for me.