Sometimes I wonder why I bother going to church.
Being a lay minister and married to the vicar has something to do with it, I guess…
‘It’s nothing more than a religious social club,’ as a normally mild-mannered, retired priest put it recently.
Like many organisations made up of fallible human beings the church is often a place of paradox. A place of compassion and conflict. Of forgiveness and fault-finding. Of singing and squabbling. Of prayer and power-holding.
Many appear more comfortable dealing with the linen, arranging the flowers or following the correct way to process around the altar than about nurturing each other’s faith and enabling people to receive the love of God. It’s easier to ‘do church’ than ‘do God’.
If he visited today, I wonder if Jesus would turn over a few tables and ask ‘Where is your faith?’ because it appears so well hidden.
A tad unfair? Yes, of course. I know many churchgoers who have a strong faith and, after all, who am I to judge?
And it is wonderful when (often in smaller numbers, such as during a Lent course or in a house group) people do feel able to speak openly about their belief and their doubts. And yet, why is it that I always feel surprised when that happens…? (‘Oh, ye of little faith, Richard…’)
If talking about faith is not part of natural conversation then what does that say about the church? But is this reluctance to talk openly about the things of God not so much a matter of discomfort but a lack of confidence?
If there is no culture of learning or praying together (outside that provided within a service) or no active sharing of insights about God, it is any wonder that people struggle to feel confident and assured in their faith?
That age-old construct of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ also continues to undermine the ability of people to ask questions, to have doubts and to take the risk of saying what they believe.
It’s astonishing how many people have been going to church for years and yet lack knowledge about some basic tenets of our faith and why we do particular things in terms of our acts of worship, prayer and teaching.
The growth of online services has opened up new ways of being church yet doing something that ‘isn’t how we do it’ is still looked upon sceptically and even dismissively by some.
In our current team of six churches we are reprising a series of teaching sessions that were run in our previous parishes called ‘Exploring our Faith’. A way of revisiting some of the basics about prayer, the Bible, communion and other aspects of Christian belief. A way of equipping people to live out their faith more confidently. Quiet events can also be a less verbose way of building up our reliance on God (do contact me if you’d like one for your church).
We have so much to learn from each other about how God works in individual lives. Finding ways to explore our faith with others not only helps each other but also aids the work and ministry of the church. We can reset the balance: so that how we ‘do God’ becomes more important than how we ‘do church’.
So lest you think otherwise, this isn’t about ‘spreading the Gospel’ or being theologically eloquent. It’s about encouraging others in a very natural, normal way.
If you find it difficult to talk about God or your faith, you’re far from being alone. Why not try this:
- Think about the people you pray for. Do they know? How about in the next week telling one of them that you are praying for them – and then someone else in the following week?
- And how about telling one other person about something God has done or how God has blessed you in some way.
You never know just how much that might mean to them.
Thank you for reading this post – please do share it with others, subscribe and contribute your thoughts at the WorkRestPray Facebook Group.