One thing that I’ve really learned over the past few years is that my relationship with God is a personal one. And I really believe it should be that way for everyone. Your relationship shouldn’t be pinned to what church you go to.
I live in the South now, which means that I live in the Bible belt. There are literally churches everywhere. And that’s fine. But every single church here believes that you should attend that church. It creates a competition. That competition between churches is one that exists everywhere, but I notice it the most here because the volume is so much higher. Most Christians believe that everyone should go to church. The problem is that churches want you to go to their church. Don’t go to someone else’s church, come to my church. There’s a sign outside the church near my apartment that says, “Need home improvements? Bring your family to church.”
My boyfriend and I visited a different church today. It’s a fairly new campus here (as far as I understand). But he attended this same church when he was in college in Tuscaloosa, so he’s been wanting to visit it here, since he enjoyed the church so much before he moved back to Florence.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the church, and I actually enjoyed the sermon. It was a type that I missed, because it was just theological enough for me to follow. It was the first time I’ve been in a church with a bulletin for a while. But this church is huge. There’s campuses with multiple services all over Alabama. So they have money. It’s practically a mega church, and the sermon was live streamed from the main campus, which is not my thing.
They kept talking about how next week is Easter, and Easter is the perfect opportunity to invite someone to church, which technically is true. Unchurched people are most likely to visit church on Christmas and Easter. Those are the two times a year that people go to church. But every time they talked about inviting people, it was like a pitch. It was like they were selling something.
I personally don’t want to sell anyone on whatever church I go to. I don’t even really want to sell someone my savior. Yes, this is a consumer society, but faith isn’t something that should be bought. It’s not something that should be pitched. It should be personal. Yes, salvation is something that I believe we all need, but telling someone that seems so impersonal.
I’d rather be introduced to a loving God in the same way that I’d introduce someone to my best friend, my dad, or my boyfriend.
I was afraid to talk about visiting a new church today, because it feels like people get so offended when you don’t go to their church, or if you even miss a week. I didn’t visit a new church to offend anyone, or even because I’m unhappy where I am. It’s not because of the worship or the sermon or anything else. Church services, to me, seem to be a way to teach someone about God. But I know about God. I paid to study the Bible for four years. Then I spent another year paying to focus on my relationship with God and his Spirit. I don’t want to be taught. I don’t want to be bored. I want a family.
I have a family where I am. They’re there when I need them. But we’ve become a bit estranged, because I got used to a certain routine, and that routine was then disrupted. I got used to the community that came from life groups that happened once a week. It was something that gave me life. One of my favorite things is doing life with other people. Community is something that I have craved for a long time, and every time I seem to grasp it, it’s almost like it pulls away from me. But I’m not going to blame anyone else, because I easily get too tired to chase a community that changes with the flow of the river.
“Life groups” are starting again, but not in the way that I’m craving. They want to read a Bill Johnson book together. I just don’t feel like going to a book club. I don’t want to read another Jesus book that’s going to bore me. Which is okay. It’s okay that other people find life in an environment that drains me. We are all different, which is something that I recognize and do my best to celebrate. I believe that everyone who goes to these new life groups is going to get something out of it. I’m just not sure that I would.
One of my favorite classes that I took in college was Teaching Small Groups. Yes, that sounds boring. The point of the class was to learn how to teach small groups. But the class was so small, we actually got to be a small group. We actually got to do life together as we learned. That’s the kind of community that I’m craving.
So no, I’m not switching churches. That’s not what this is about. I’m not even trying to bash churches, like I have done so often. I just don’t want to be told to sell my church. I’m a terrible salesman, and I’m not even usually sold on church. I don’t even always want to go to church, but that’s where my friends are. I want to be sold your small group. I want to buy your community. So pitch it to me. And I’ll invite you into mine, when I find one.
You can invite me. And maybe I’ll invite you. I just wish it was more about community and growing in relationship with God, than about selling all of the great programs and resources your church can provide.
And who knows, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just too darn cynical.