The Church as a Hindrance

The church is a good place for us to grow and worship together; but can the church be a hindrance to our spiritual lives? Yes, but let me first explain. The church has been a huge part of my life since I was born. I grew up in the church and have volunteered in the church for many years. My church family has been a part of my life through some very difficult times. They have been there to pray for me, support my family, and encourage us.

However, living a life full of trials and tribulations has shown me that the church can be a hindrance in one specific way. Those who are going through a difficult time rely solely on the church and not on God. What do I mean by this? When I was in high school, I went through my parent’s divorce. It was a nasty and hard divorce that left me and my family broken and bruised. I turned to the church first instead of turning to God.

See, when we go through a difficult time, God wants us to rely on Him and to turn to Him before anything else or anyone else. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” NIV It is not that a church or the people in the church are bad or can’t help you but the church is not greater than God. No one is greater than God. So why, when we are in a tough situation, do we immediately call upon the church instead of God?

I think, often times, we turn to the church first before asking God for help due to of a couple of reasons. One, we can talk to someone face-to-face and hear their answer immediately. Sometimes God takes His time because there is another lesson He wants us to learn. It isn’t that He doesn’t want to answer or cannot answer us directly. If God decided to speak to me right here and right now about the troubles I’ve faced, He would do it. He did it with Moses in the burning bush and He can do it with all of us. The reason He doesn’t do that is because it would defeat the purpose of spending time with Him and would take away from the growth of our relationship with Him. In times of pain and sorrow or times of difficulty we should turn to God’s word and turn to prayer. God wants to hear from us just as much as we want to hear from Him.

Second, sometimes we can hide the bad stuff about ourselves and our situation to get a response that we want rather than the response God will give us. Have you ever heard the term, “it takes two to tango”? Well often times in a difficult situation, there are two sides to a story. Take my parent’s divorce for example. There were things said and done on both parts that ruined their marriage. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t due to one simple mistake or one word said. If I were one of my parents going through the divorce I wouldn’t want the people in the church to know all of the bad things I’ve done. I would want to tell them everything that my spouse has done to me in order to get the response and sympathy I am looking for. With God, we cannot hide the things we have done. He knows every flaw and every imperfection.

Third, we turn to the church first instead of God because we want something from the church and we want it immediately. If we are struggling financially or we need something physical that maybe the church can provide we ask them before we ask God. On this one, I am not saying that taking help from the church is a bad thing. The church has helped many people through some tough times. However, it is where our hearts lie on this one that truly matters. God is the one who provides all things for us and when we ask Him He will provide. If you are tight on money and don’t know how you will be able to provide food for your family, ask God to help you and then go to your church. They may have a food bank you can get food from. When you don’t have a job and you’ve been searching for months but haven’t had any offers, ask God and then see if there is someone in the church who knows of a job available that would fit. My point is, when you need something in your life (physical need or not) turn to God and ask Him what to do. Rely on God before you rely on the church. Relying on God to provide those physical needs is another way to build your relationship with Him. Psalm 91:2 says, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” NIV

Like I’ve said many times now, it is not a bad thing to be a part of a church or ask a church for help but when we turn to the church before we turn to God, we are being hindered in our spiritual life. Remember that “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

 

Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” NIV

Community is Necessary for Spiritual Growth

It has been a while since I have attended church on a regular basis. I grew up in the church and have gone to church almost every Sunday and even on Wednesday nights when I was a teenager. Over this past year, my church attendance has dwindled to almost never going.

I won’t sit here and tell you that you have to go, every Sunday, to church or you will go to hell. That is just incorrect and stupid. The ONLY way to get to heaven is through Jesus Christ. Having a relationship with Him and accepting Him as your Lord and Savoir. You can do that without going to church.

I will tell you that I believe community is an important part of your spiritual growth. We learn from others and see a different perspective on things. So for me, a year of on and off connection was a bad thing for my spiritual growth. I was going to a church that I thought would be our church family until the day I died. I was growing through the sermons, making friends who had kids the same age as my daughter, my husband began to learn how to be a preacher, and we were learning from our church community.

Well, things happened and the church started falling apart. It was then my husband and I realized that it was time to move on. There were hurtful words from the members who stayed and our hearts left heavy and broken. So we went to a church where my in-laws were attending. this time, there wasn’t any growth. I wasn’t growing spiritually, there weren’t any children my daughter’s age she could play with and learn from but my husband kept preaching and learning what it meant to become a preacher. I stayed in it for my husband but deep inside I felt stagnant. I was stuck in a place where I wasn’t growing and it was taking a toll on my spiritual relationship with the Lord.

Life happened and the church decided not to stand by our side but ridicule us instead; telling us we were wrong for everything that had happened in our life (things that had nothing to do with the church) and tore the preaching lessons away from my husband. Once again, we were broken and hurt by a church we trusted but let me make one thing clear before I move on. No church is perfect. Because the church is made up of a body of believers, it is also filled with individuals who all mess up; just like you and me. So in no way do I hate those individuals who hurt us. Yes, they were leaders of the church and was what they did right? No. they way they treated us was not the way anyone should be treated. However, I am, in no way, saying that church is bad, leaders of a church don’t also make mistakes, and no one will ever get hurt in a church. It happens.

So at this point, my husband and I were broken from two churches and didn’t know where to go. We still craved that community and spiritual growth that we both desperately needed. So once again, we went looking for a church and found one. It was a lot bigger for our taste but we decided to give it a shot. We attended there for about five months and during that time, we went through one of the hardest times of our marriage thus far. We went to the pastor and asked for counseling. We were set up for counseling but didn’t feel like anyone really cared.

The counseling fell through and we felt like no one really cared about helping us or encouraging us. We stopped attending church and even stopped reading our bibles. Our spiritual life grew dry and I felt like I was shriveling up. I was spiritually wasting away to nothing and I was growing further and further away from God.

My husband’s schedule eventually changed and he could not longer look for a church with me. He now works every Sunday morning. However, I didn’t want it to end there. I yearned for the community I once knew and the growth I once had in my life. I turned to a church I grew up in here in Colorado and decided to start attending.

You might think, well why did you leave that church in the first place? I left because I went to college four hours away from this church. After I graduated from college, I moved to another small mountain town where I met my husband. When we moved back to the Denver area, we wanted to start fresh together in a church where no one knew us and that is when we found the first church I discussed in this article.

When I entered the doors of my now current church, I felt like I was home and had never left. Everyone was very welcoming and warm and very inviting to my family. I left that day feeling complete again. Now, every Sunday, I want to go back and join the community in events, worship and even join a bible study.

My point throughout all this is that community is an important part of our spiritual growth. It might take us a little while to find the right community or the right church to fit in to but when you do find it, stick with it. I learn so much from the people of Good News Community Church every single week. The lessons we all have learned can be passed on to each other and we can be there for each other when hard times come around. That is a valuable thing to have in your life.

So if you think community is necessary for your spiritual growth and you feel like you are shriveling up and drying out, try to find that community. I promise, when you find the right church for you and you stick with it, you will grow in ways you never thought possible.