We live in a culture that bombards us with the message “do what’s best for you”. It’s influence has seeped into every area of our lives. And for myself, I found it led me down a very dangerous road — a road that has tangled up the way I love Jesus. More specifically, the way I approach my church community.
I really like my church. And as it turns out, so do a majority of my friends. Sunday morning services commonly become another setting for all of us to hang out. About a year ago, I started thinking about the reasons I go to my church. I knew that I believed in the doctrine of the church, what my pastor brought to the pulpit, and the mission that our community was pursuing. But I was haunted by the overly social part of my church experience. Was I going for the right reasons? Had it’s purpose become primarily to hang out with my friends?
I at once decided that making church a “social event” was a mindset I would now avoid. If excitement about church came from the anticipation of seeing all my friends in one place, I was a flakey Christian at best. I decided that I should be going to church for God alone and not a place for a social pick me up.
The good intentions went sideways very quickly. I started giving myself spiritual pats on the back for going in and out of the service without stopping to talk with anyone. Any sort of enjoyment, outside of hearing the sermon, felt selfish to me. I had become a social martyr and ended up pushing others completely out of my holy equation. I turned church into a one-man show, solely about growing my relationship with God.
The realization of what I had done came unexpectedly. I was discussing with a friend what it means to be a part of the church. “It so often becomes self-centered — a place to simply fulfill individual needs and desires that blind us from the need to love the church back in a dedicated and willing way.” It took about two seconds after my rant that I realized I was knee-deep in hypocrisy.
My quest to not make Sunday mornings superficial had taken me from one extreme to another. Yes, I needed to go with a genuine heart, but my heart needed to be for others and not just myself. Mark 12:31 went flashing through my head. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” There was a little bit too much “loving myself” going on — I had forgotten the first part of God’s commandment.
I figure this all can be solved with a piece of pie.
My childhood church used to put on Pie Socials. Every couple of Sundays we would all gather in the Church basement after Sunday school. The socials happened for little reason other than to get together and eat pie. But the amazing thing was this: there was a genuine desire to just be with one another (with maybe a little sugar incentive). Replace your pie with cake or pizza if you really want, but I think that the “social” part is quite imperative.
I had fallen prey to the common problem of making church solely about my walk rather than the people as a whole. It can look very righteous it’s true. But this is all backwards. Loving God is not a narrow road of the individual and their God — it involves caring for the old man who lives next door, the checkout clerk at the grocery store, and those in the pew next to you on a Sunday morning. The church exists to harvest genuine interaction with others and with God. It is a place for a long haul kind of dedication to those sitting in the next pew. It’s a place where whip cream and fluffy crust just might be biblical and loving others becomes a little bit more real.
Photo by (Flickr CC): Stefano