I found myself on Advent 1 in Brooklyn on vacation with extraordinary choices: Sleep until noon or arise with the sirens? Drink exquisite coffee from TBC’s 4th floor window overlooking the neighborhood or from one of countless patisseries lining the sidewalks?
It would be so easy not to choose church.
There are many deterrents to choosing church even if we are spiritually or generationally disposed to do so – especially in an unfamiliar town.
- What if the sanctuary seats 400 and only 40 show up? (Been there.)
- What if it’s one of those churches that makes newcomers stand up and introduce ourselves. (Please don’t ever do that.)
- What if the music not only fails to inspire, but it separates us from God. (Ugh – “Jesus Is My Boyfriend” music)
- What if the message offers no hope in light of LaQuan McDonald or The Planned Parenthood attack? (Because we need a word of hope.)
- What they call themselves “a friendly congregation” in the opening words but there is no one to hand us a bulletin when we wander in? (Also the Wednesday class sounds interesting but there was no time or location mentioned- just a friendly heads up.)
TBC & I were lucky. We experienced the living God on Advent 1 in an actual church building as strangers greeted us warmly and the music stirred us and the message was exactly right. And even if the opposite had been true, I’ll still be back, if not to that particular church gathering then to another in another town.
I still choose church.
It can disappoint us and infuriate us and even hurt us. But where else can we gather with all kinds of people who have spiritual longings and bankruptcies? Where else can we shake our fists and weep and express our profound gratitude and smile at elderly people and wave little waves at babies and sing together and mention out loud that we need prayer for great or small things?
I still choose church. But I also marvel when I meet strangers who still choose church.