[If you’re going to run off without reading this post because it’s too long, I understand. I use lots of words to think, but know lots of people are frustrated by such excessiveness. If that’s you, I would be really grateful if you’d skip over the wordy part of the post and consider answering the bolded questions at the end, before you leave. Thanks 🙂 ]
I’ve been thinking a lot about church during the past year. Due to a set of unexpected circumstances, I found myself searching for a church to attend at a time when I wanted desperately to be settled. With a combination of grief, my introverted tendency to avoid new groups of people and a critical attitude, the process was pretty rough and lengthy. Right before Christmas, a lot of things came together. I felt like my grief came to the surface in a clearer way, and God began to touch and chip off the arrogant attitudes in such an amazing and tender way. It’s hard to describe how tangible that process was and what a relief it was to be able to let go of some of the attitudes I’d been holding onto, but not liking.
I’ve been learning a lot in the process, thanks in great part to many of you who read this blog and others whose blogs I read. (I’m not going to try to locate and link back to all the specific blogs, because there are too many over quite a period of time. I’m just linking to the home pages of many of the bloggers who have influenced my life as I work through my thinking on church. If you want to know more about a specific author or post I refer to, though, email me and I’ll send you the link(s).)
Codepoke’s posts on blooming where you are planted and getting involved in a church near ones house prompted me to visit a nearby church I had otherwise overlooked. That is the church I ended up deciding to settle into and be a part of. Lingamish continues to keep me on my toes with regards to thinking about worship and challenging some of my expectations. The honest writings at Beyond Words have given me a model for critical thinking about church while maintaining a heart of humility and life of servanthood. John at Ancient Hebrew Poetry got me thinking with some of his posts as he has written about a wedding and a funeral he preached, has shared bits and pieces about the churches he and his wife pastor, as well as thoughts on his aunt’s active involvement in her church. Phil’s own thoughts at Pensees as well as a quote he shared by Kierkegaard have me grappling with the topic from another angle. And Thainamu has shared some about her church and the life group she is a part of, which helped me think about my own expectations. How they do things fit with a lot of my expectations, even though if you’d have asked me what the ideal small group looked like, I couldn’t have come up with a description very easily.
And then Scott Gray of A Lectionary Beyond Belief wrote and asked me some questions, which motivated me to try harder to articulate some of these vague thoughts and feelings.
Articulating stuff is hard for me. People don’t think it is, because I am so verbose. But the verboseness is part of the struggle to actually be able to narrow down and communicate what’s going on inside of me on a given topic. I suppose I unconsciously think that if I use enough words, I’ll eventually be able to accurately get out what is on my heart and mind. But I’m rarely satisfied with the end result, and I think sometimes I lose the point in all of the words. Anyway, Scott’s questions helped. As a brainstormer and networker, my thinking was all over the map, so to speak. But with specific questions, I was able, a little bit, to start to narrow down some of my thinking. Instead of sharing my partially formed answers here and now, though, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic.
I want to ask you one of Scott’s questions with a couple of my own. I’m thinking of this as a survey. For those of you who read blogs, but don’t comment because you don’t think you have anything to contribute to the conversation, actually you do on this post! Everybody has a contribution to make to a survey. This is an open ended survey about what you do and why you do it. If you do it (go to church), you’ve got something to add (and if you don’t do it, your reasons for that would contribute a helpful perspective as well!)
I’m really curious about why people go to church and what they expect when they do. There are no right or wrong answers, and I’m not planning on responding to the comments in the thread itself. My hope is that it truly will be a collection of responses that will paint a picture for me and help me sort out, clarify and articulate my own thoughts. I may further the discussion in another post, but here I’d like to collect your reasons without adding my 2 cents to them.
If you go to church, there are reasons you do, and there are expectations you have for that. I’m wanting to learn more about the scope and variety of those reasons and expectations.
Here’s the original question I was asked:
What do you think the purpose of church services is in ones spiritual and faith community life?
Here are two other questions to help you think through it. Feel free to respond to any or all of them.
What do you hope/expect to get out of going to church?
What do you hope/expect to contribute by going to church? (i.e. what part do you believe the individual believer has in the bigger purpose of church services?)