Some people say church is out of date. Numbers of people in church are declining, and so many think it’s because the baggage of traditional ideas of “what church is” are a large part of the reason why. Those old-school notions of church (and I guess, of religion) are supported by repeated media reporting of negativity and failing, and of people’s fear of cults, sects and … Tom Cruise (for want of a better example).
I wondered today what makes people attend church? My friend tells me she wonders if most people are attracted to church when they are in need. I guess nobody who feels full, complete, rich and happy wakes up one day and says “I need to go to church.” Is that true? People only go to church when they are suffering? I guess that’s true for me. It’s how I found my way back to church (not to my religious beliefs – they were already there). I needed the reassurance and support of a church family when, over the last year, many things just seemed to pile up and threaten to suffocate my spirit. When me and my own faith just wasn’t enough. I needed to feel centered, supported and spiritually reassured by others who shared the same desires. I found my way back to church.
I discovered my fantastic church through a web search, where I went through the theologies and tried to get a feel for the congregation and ministry. My friend Leslie went with me to the first service. She basically had to hold my hand and release my fear. I hadn’t been a regular church goer since my own church in Australia fell apart at the seams, bashing members of its leadership and congregation as it imploded. I’d looked at a few other churches afterwards, with a ‘suck it and see’ approach, but then moved to Colorado where the environment speaks to me, and became a lightning rod for my connection with God. After my mother’s passing, I realised I needed a church family again. Luckily for me, going to First Baptist at Boulder was perfect – I have been back every week since, and three weeks ago became a full member of my church. What a blessing it is to me. I have become progressively stronger, spiritually and emotionally as a direct result. I have gained so much and I honestly love my church family.
I know for many other people, different things contribute to how they choose a church to go to as a visitor, let alone which one to identify with as a member. Has the Westboro Baptist Church insanity tainted the word Baptist for everyone in the USA? Once a Catholic always a Catholic? Do you think of churches as franchises? Kind of like McDonalds – no matter where you go, the sign out the front says what you’ll experience inside?
What about churches whose names sound like they have a compound somewhere, a uniform and an arsenal of weaponry? The River? The Family? Would you want to attend a church with an abstract name, or would you be more inclined to enter one with a traditional name, but with Progressive shoved in there somewhere?
Do you go to church? How did you choose the church you attend? What made/makes you stay? How important is the name?
PS: This is a judgment-free zone. Any requests for anonymity are respected and supported. I’m more interested in your thoughts than in who you are. But you know what? If you live in Boulder and are looking for a church….