Churches, leaders and small groups
11/20/2013 – 9:45pm.
I usually struggle on having something to post, however tonight my mind has been stirred by a discussion that I had with a small group about church, pastors and their roles and the church and just the mindsets of those that attend churches.
Although a large part of the study ended up focusing on examining a certain paragraph in a deeper sense that C.J. Mahaney wrote in his book, ‘humility’, I started to examine my life when it comes to attending thoughts and was pondering the different motivations behind why people attend church and the reasons I have attended church in the past which aren’t the reason we’re supposed to, which is to learn more and give Glory to God.
I believe that many attend church out of a sense of obligation, others attend because they want to socialize and others are there to truly learn more about the Lord. Some attend as they feel it’s a safe place and some attend as they’re curious about this Christianity thing and they want to learn more. I’ve heard of people who have said that the only reason they’re attending church for the day or a Bible study or Sunday School is to make a final decision if they want to believe in Christ and creationism or Athiestism and they make their choice based solely on the one experience.
Going back to pastors and their roles in the church, this whole train of thought came from a discussion about if a pastor was to leave, what percentage of the church would remain due to them leaving. A good percentage would, I’m sure, however others would leave that were there for different reasons than to simply worship the Lord and learn more about his Word.
Myself, personally, I started as a child with my parents, going out of obligation as they did. As time went by, they stopped attending as much as were less strict on us to attend, to the point that they didn’t attend. I then in my early teens, or ‘tweens’ if you want to call it what they do these days, at the age of 10 or 11 started wanting to go to church again. At first, at that age, it was more to be around others. When I was that young, I don’t remember what my mindset was, but it wasn’t as much to focus on Christ. It was a safe haven and I was simply trying to fit in I believe. I was pretty much a recluse anyway at my house, I didn’t socialize much as I believe I started homeschooling at this point, so this gave me an opportunity to do so.
A few years later I became more serious about Christ, however I was always confused. I felt guilt for so many years and still do due to sins that I had committed. I didn’t fully comprehend God’s grace and I still don’t if I am honest.
I went to a few churches in my teenage years. I went to a Methodist church for several years. There were great people there. I had my first ‘experience’ or ‘high’ as some would call it there, at a trip to Daytona. I still don’t know to this day if that is when I accepted Christ or if it was solely an emotional experience brought on by the worship that they were having. David Crowder was playing via a “live link” as they called it. That is the first and the last time that I can remember that I was freely able to worship and I didn’t give a darn about what anyone else was thinking. Ever since, I’ve been always afraid of being judged due to my voice or any other number of things, so I just keep my mouth shut for every window in the building won’t break. (Not really, that wouldn’t happen.. Or would it?)
Regardless, after that point I was really convicted by sin, however I was pretty much stuck in it at that point. I didn’t understand grace. I didn’t truly repent for my sins. I believe I kept on going to church due to the same fact that there were people around that I could associate with and that it was a safe place where I could get away from all of the drama at home. Yes, I was searching, I’ve been searching for as long as I can remember, but it was a safe place for me, and that meant a lot.
I’ve done so much ‘going through the motions’ as Matthew West’s song says in my 25 years of life that it’s not funny. Sitting or standing at a pew just listening to the worship, trying to get some energy from it, thinking about the lyrics in my head and hoping that I’d get something from the worship service, but usually getting nothing at all. Sometimes I’d think to myself that I’ve heard it all before so I would get pretty bored and almost fall asleep as it seemed so repetitive to me and I just couldn’t apply it to my life.
At any rate, after I went to the Methodist church in Pooler, I started going to a Baptist church. I kept on trying to get closer to God, however it seemed not forthcoming, as if any time I prayed, my prayers were hitting an impenetrable barrier and just bouncing back, unheard and unanswered.
I know I went to a few churches before these when I was younger and in between, but they don’t hold a huge deal of significance to me. Such as a Pentecostal church where speaking in tongues was quite common. It was a good group, however I didn’t really get much from it. The speaking in tongues I didn’t really understand and back then I didn’t really have a true desire to understand them, in my head I attributed them as a gift that some might have possessed back in Biblical days, however now it’s not given.
I believe that I stopped attending there when I moved to where I lived with my grandmother, as there wasn’t any way that I could go back and forth as I didn’t drive and I still don’t.
I then started looking around here for churches to attend. I tried a few, a Methodist church I didn’t really enjoy as the ‘young adult’ group consisted of about a dozen elderly members in their 70’s and 80’s and I didn’t feel like I fit in. It’s quite possibly that they were young at heart, but not young when it comes down to physical age on this Earth.
I then started going to a Baptist church that my oldest brother used to attend. I enjoyed it for the most part, however it started getting stale after a time. I just couldn’t get a huge deal by the way that the sermon was being preached. The bullet list that the pastor used seemed to be getting more and more repetitive as I really didn’t get a lot from the little stories that he added on.
I was active in the college group for several years, however it honestly felt like it was very click in there, if that’s what you call it when there are groups that stick together that don’t really welcome others into their group. I did everything I could to try to fit in, helped everywhere I could, brought stuff on Sunday mornings, not just out of obligation, but because I truly like to serve and I like people to be able to enjoy themselves. However, after time, it started to feel more like an obligation. This is probably due to the fact that I wasn’t really getting fed, more than likely due to my own stubbornness and that I wasn’t as open to learning and I didn’t have as good of an understanding of things as I do now, however I’m not saying that I have much understanding now, just more than I did then.
I then slowly stopped attending Sunday’s there about two years ago and started going to a non-denominational church, where I currently attend. I enjoy it and I have a good many friends that attend there. I still keep in contact and enjoy the Bible studies that the Baptist church I attended previously held on Tuesday nights, as I really find them to be helpful and I love the people and I am getting fed and learn something that grows me every time I attend, however since the service on Sunday’s wasn’t benefiting me spiritually, I was getting exhausted and wasn’t really being fed as I should, again, likely due to my own stubbornness, that I felt that I had to do something else before the pressures of this life got me down too far.
I started going to my current church that I attend on Sunday’s and different activities and groups with, and I’ll say this, it’s different than what I experienced at other churches. People overall seem to be pretty open, sure, everyone has their own subset of people that they associate with more than others, however overall, I’m getting more from it on Sunday’s than I was previously. I don’t expect to get a ton of changes from attending one service. I go trying to believe that I’ll learn something different.
It seems that I really enjoy smaller groups and communities and studies better than I do large ones, as you can be more personal and in depth with others and really go into specifics and learn more about each other and in that, learn more about Christ through those discussions, whereas if you’re in a large group, not everyone will have the opportunity to speak when it comes to small groups. Sure, not everyone is going to speak, but I really get more from a community setting than I do the traditional ‘preaching’ aspect of church it seems like.
Perhaps this is because I get more food for thought from them or perhaps it’s because I can better relate and then later look up and reference and read the Bible later and get more from it as I actually go back afterwards and am motivated to look up additional resources and Biblical references, I’m not sure.
I just know that since I’d say last October I’ve been wanting to delve deeper. Sure, I feel like I’m going nowhere progress wise and that Satan tries to pit his demons on me still, throwing thoughts such as, ‘If only you really believed that’ or ‘God doesn’t care’ or ‘God doesn’t exist’ in my head, however I’m getting better at blocking those thoughts out of my head.
I’m still sinful and there’s a few specific sins I focus with more than others, but I fully understand that every human being on the Earth is sinful, myself more than most and that I’ll sin far too many times a day than I’d like, no matter how hard I try not to. That’s when trying to fully understand the possibility and ultimately reality of God’s grace, however I know that I will never fully comprehend it in this life and I don’t think any one of us will, as it’s beyond what our human minds can fathom.
This whole blog post that is now getting pretty long was inspired by a simple conversation about church as a whole and the role of pastors. Once I get into a subject, my mind delves pretty deeply into it.
I’m generally not good at speaking my thoughts verbally, unless it’s to someone that I trust pretty well, I am utterly horrible at group speaking in groups, occasionally I can speak in smaller groups of under a half dozen or so, however it’s that fear of judgement and Satan that kicks in again, telling lies which distract me too much to actually say anything that I’m thinking.
I suppose I’m using this blog as an outlet of sorts. I don’t know how well I really went into anything in this post, and I don’t know how complete or incomplete it is. I know I more than likely skipped things I wanted to say, however I’m not feeling very well, I think it was the lasagna I ate for lunch that was so good burning my throat coming back up, burning my throat for retaliation, so I think I had better lay down and get some sleep.
I know there are so many details that I missed in this post about different experiences and different things I’ve done related to church events and whatnot, however if I was to go into everything in detail this would be a small book.
I’ll end this post with a Youtube video of that song I mentioned earlier, ‘Going Through the Motions’ by Matthew West.