What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “church”?
It may give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, a place you feel you can go for comfort and support.
Or it may make you shutter and shake your head and think that is the last place that you would find yourself, alive.
The latter is unfortunately a very common reaction for people of today’s society, for a number of reasons.
Some because of past experiences that left them with a bad taste in their mouths.
Some may know of someone who had a bad experience and feel they don’t want to make the same mistake.
Some, it may be that they don’t see the need to go to church, that they get what they need from other sources.
And then others may be just angry with people within the church who they perceive as hypocrites and intolerant.
How unfortunate for both sides, for those who are within the church body who would love for their friends and family to find the same freedom they’ve experienced, and for those who see the church as a place of judgment, criticism or full of programs that replace personal relationships.
Where do you fall?
Maybe somewhere in between.
Maybe you would really like to go to church, but don’t know what to expect or how people will receive you.
Or maybe you want to invite friends, but don’t want to be rejected or judged yourself.
Will it have the right music, the best sermon, the proper atmosphere, the best programs?
Will people be interested in your life or are they just “playing” church?
These questions and concerns have been around for a long time, since the beginning of church.
The church in the book of Acts, where it all began, struggled with many of these same issues.
As followers of Christ, they experienced their own doubts, concerns, criticism and persecution, and those on the outside, felt segregated, confused, and uncertain of the authenticity of the early church.
Can we look at the example Jesus left for us. What did he do?
He went to the people, met them in their homes, in their lifestyle, on their turf.
He spoke truth with compassion and authority.
He loved, even when others couldn’t find it in themselves.
He touched peoples lives with his empathy and kindness.
He accepted those around him that others rejected.
He spoke sternly to the religious leaders in order to break them free of their structures and rules in order to love people.
His objective was the same everywhere he went, to share that it’s possible to be loved and accepted by Him, which is an inner need in each person regardless of belief.
So, church isn’t a building.
So as Christians, we can take church everywhere we go just by demonstrating who Jesus is.
Maybe if that happened more often, the word church would be a welcomed word.
Wendy Townsend is campus pastor at Southgate Church in Maple Ridge.