This year my second son will head out into the world. He graduates in 3 weeks and leaves for college in 3 months. I continually worry about him and his older brother out there in this big world all alone. Then I remind myself that God did not send them out all alone. He has put faith communities in every city and town in America. As a result, I pray that they will plug into a Church during their college years and for the rest of their lives.
My children have always had their dad as their minister. I know many pastors do not talk about Church issues in front of their kids, but we chose the opposite path. We have openly talked about the ugly side of Church with them while also sharing the joys. Today I want to distil down my biggest thoughts about the Church for them and for you.
1. The Church does more good than you will ever know. Some of the things a Church does makes headlines, but most do not. Through my life, I have seen the people in Churches rebuild homes, help victims of tragedies and donate supplies to those hurting. The fix meals for the sick and elderly. They give money to the less fortunate. They help, serve, give, work, share and love more than any other group of people I know. Much of what the Church does will not be seen on social media. Sometimes that makes people think it is not happening because other groups publicize their goodwill. Church people do it for God’s glory and not personal gain and it happens on a scale you cannot imagine.
2. Someone will hurt you. The old expression is that “hurt people, hurt people.” The truth is that the Church is full of hurting people. Marriages are falling apart, children have become prodigals, guilt and shame abound, and there is the constant attack of evil on people in the Church. As a result, someone will say something without thinking. They will act in a way that is inappropriate for believers. Ugliness will one day touch your life in a way that hurts. Know that those people generally don’t mean it. They are lost in a big scary world, and the easiest thing to do is lash out when threatened or as a plea for attention. Ignore the hurt and love them with grace. That is what they need … and you do too.
3. One day the Church will shock you with love and support. One day tragedy will strike your family. As a father, I hate that thought for my children, but it is true. Someone you love will die or get sick. There will be some sort of accident that will derail you. In those dark moments, someone from the Church will show up to love you. They will pray with you. They will sit with you. They will bring more food than you could ever eat. You will be overwhelmed with cards, emails, and texts. Quite often you will not know the depth of people’s love until a dark night, and it will fill you with awe.
4. People grow spiritually in Church. A Church community pushes you toward spiritual growth. They will ask you to serve and to lead. The Church will force you to deal with ugly and beautiful situations. They will attempt to teach you the Bible over and over again in a number of ways. Every Pastor I know wants to see an increase in the faith of the people he leads. Without the Church, you will get stuck in one place. No one will call you out on immoral behavior. You will be allowed to live with unforgiveness and a hard heart. The Church is the place I see people grow for the Lord, don’t let anyone or anything convince you otherwise.
5. You never know when God will show up. One day you will drag yourself to Church half asleep and God will touch you through a song, a video, a testimony, a sermon or a combination of all those things. You literally never know when you will encounter a God moment in your life. You may hope for it or expect it, but God does his own thing in his own time. One Sunday morning you may walk out of Church as a new person. If not you, then it will be your spouse or your children or a friend. Your views and attitudes will be altered for the rest of your life. One reason I tell people to be at a Church meeting every week is that at one of those God will show up and you will never be the same.
I write these things to my children, but also for you. The Church gets a lot of bad press in the world. Christians are often treated as dumb, shallow or misguided. None of those things are true. The Church is the greatest organization in the world. It has existed for 2000 years through every situation imaginable. God knew what he was doing and to truly experience a life of faith to the fullest you need to be a part of a local community of believers.