Let me start by saying I love my church. My family has been attending for over 4 years now, and we are there most every Sunday. Having spent nearly 30 years working for churches, I am not always easy to please. I often have my own thoughts on how things should be done in this huge, very successful church- and strangely enough they don't ask me! But still, I love going to worship with my church family. So I am not sure how to explain yesterday...
My family arrived and took our seats about 10 minutes before the service began (as usual) and began to discuss the previous evening's activities. Our 15 year old son Will had spent the entire previous day auditioning for next year's band drumline (he made snares!) and then hanging out with his buddies. We let him ride to supper with a "new" driver (against his mom's wishes). He somehow stretched supper into a 3 hours event before calling, and he didn't answer his mom's calls. Everything turned out fine, but there was leftover tension as we awaited the start of worship. We discussed it for a short period of time, then turned our attention to Jesus. The conversation was never heated or contentious, but it was quite honest. After the praise set we had the traditional time of meeting and greeting one another. A woman we had never seen before was in front of of us, and had clearly overheard our conversation. She turned to Will, shook his hand and said, "Even though your parents are hard on you, never forget they still love you." He looked totally dumbfounded. Strike 1 for yesterday's service.
Our pastor then began to preach. He is in the midst of a series called Restart. Yesterday's subject was "Restart your Heart." I was expecting to hear about going deeper in my relationship with Jesus, or perhaps about ways to keep my faith fresh. Instead, it was a sermon on tithing. I love our pastor and usually find him to be a brilliant preacher. But yesterday he fell into the trap of proof-texting and teaching church doctrine over the words of Jesus- even twisting the words of Jesus (in my opinion) on one occasion. I felt like it was a bait and switch sermon. Get us there with a great title, then hit us giving money to the church. Strike 2.
At the conclusion of the service we were exiting when the lady in front of us grabbed my wife and encouraged her "not to give up. I know how difficult teenagers can be." Which would have been nice, except our son could not be less difficult. Strike 3.
I couldn't help but think as I walked to the car that if I had been a first time visitor on that day, I would probably never return to that church. But I suppose churches are like the people who attend them. They have off days. They fall short. They need grace - just like I do. So next Sunday we will be there again, seeking to worship our God in spirit and in truth. Jesus loves his church, and me, warts and all. I need to do the same.
In the grip of Grace,