I often wonder why people go to church. Strangers, in sanctuaries I’ve never visited. What goes on inside their heads and hearts? I read the marquees as I drive by. What happens inside those buildings?
I search my own experience, listen for clues in other people’s stories. At Choate, the boarding school far from my Montana home, I needed a place to worship. Where I could:
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing God’s praise in the assembly of the faithful! Psalm 149:1 (CEB)
Although, familiar songs were most welcome. I read Jesus’ words in my Bible in my dorm, but I knew I needed to experience God with other believers. To sing praise together.
So why did I go to church in college? Amherst Christian Fellowship had plenty of good worship with other college-age believers. I had close friends; I wasn’t looking for a social life. But I still rolled out of bed early Sunday mornings, threw on my roommate’s acid-eaten sweatshirt, and slipped into the back row just as the service was starting.
Maybe I sensed the need for an intergenerational experience. Without knowing the word. To be with people at different life stages from myself. Observing the joy of the kids, hearing the wisdom of the elders. Even while I avoided the meet and greet.
Sometimes we go to church to be alone with God. To pray. Where no one needs us, or expects us to do anything. Where it feels like just us and God. Sometimes the church building is our mountain.
During that time, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night long. Luke 6:12(CEB)
That’s what I needed in college. A place where (almost) no one knew my name. That kind of non-involvement can be difficult to achieve in a small church, but I was pretty good at the don’t-talk-to-me force field. 🙂
Moving to a new town as a young professional was different. Without campus social life, meeting people can be challenging. We crave worship and time with God, but being alone is easy to come by. We are reminded of our need for relationships with fellow followers of Jesus.
At daybreak, he called together his disciples. He chose twelve of them whom he called apostles….Lk 6:13(CEB)
Maybe being relational is why we go to church. Our relationship with God. Our relationships with others. Not always exactly in balance. Changing depending on our life stage, personalities, and circumstances.
I am grateful to the churches that provided that space for me. A place to worship, sometimes anonymously, in the assembly of the faithful. A mountaintop of sorts, where I could pray. A place where I could hear Jesus, part of the crowd seeking truth.
May we provide those spaces for folks who walk through church doors. May we find places to worship and pray. May we learn together how to be disciples of the one who called us.