I spent many years hating the church. I grew up in a home that seemed to need Jesus more than most, yet I rejected Him fiercely. Even to the point of throwing out my at-the-time boyfriend’s shirt that said “fear not” because the Bible verse printed on it taunted me so much.
When, as a young wife pregnant with my first baby, my husband suggested we go to church, I recoiled. Eventually he got his way and with arms crossed over my growing belly, I went.
One Sunday, several months later, the pastor said these marvelous words: “If anyone needs a Bible we have free ones for you as you leave.” I felt compelled to get one. I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “I need one.” And that changed everything.
The Lord had recently opened my eyes to my need for salvation through the pages of a friend’s borrowed Bible. So to own my very own seemed generous. We kept returning to that church.
Church then became the place I wanted to be. The place I found generous people, community, belonging and grace. It was the place I found the Church.
As we grew in our walk with the Lord, He led us to a new church home and I found myself (again pregnant) in need again. This time, we were 3 weeks from closing on our first house and at 36 weeks pregnant I was put on bedrest due to minor complications, all with my two year old in toe.
Again the church stepped up.
I had friends bringing meals, taking my toddler to the park and serving our family so graciously and abundantly that I wondered what I ever did without them!
Church has certainly been a place of much pain, disappointment and hurt, as well. We have been deeply hurt by those at church and can completely understand when people stop going or disconnect because of it. But I have also realized church is not Church.
The church is where the Church gathers. Lost sinners and redeemed believers alike fill the pews. In such a place there is much opportunity to love, be loved, serve and be served as well as being hurt.
The Church is the Bride of Christ. She is the one He is returning for. She is making herself ready (Revelation 19:7) for her Groom. We can find the Church in the church when we look for those who are looking like the Bridegroom.
So these days, 20 years into this walk with Jesus, I find myself missing church when quarantined at home for months, not because the location is anything special. But because the gathering of the Church, in person, raising voices in praise and opening the Word together is the taste of heaven this girl needs. It is the place of filling up so we can go serve that lost world that is crossing their arms to His grace.
This week I am looking for those with armed crossed to grace. I am reaching out to love them as I remember when I went from hating church to loving Church.