a road turns into woods in spring

Out of Sight

Why would anyone start going to church? That is far from obvious.

Not that there are no reasons for going to church, or no good reasons, or even no genuinely compelling reasons.

I love church. I always have – if “always” can mean “ever since I was a little girl, not counting the twenty-odd years that I didn’t set foot in a church and wouldn’t have for anything.” I have reasons, and I think they’re good and compelling ones.

But those reasons are far from obvious. That is, they are far from obvious from the outside.

They are much less obvious from the outside, for instance, than the reasons I love my car. I can show someone why my car is terrific, in less than two minutes.

Because of that, I know for a fact I have sold more than one car for Honda. I do not exaggerate. People, including complete strangers in parking lots, have asked me, “Hey, how do you like that car?” and my answer has always been “Holy cow, I LOVE this car! Here, look at this …” In fact, this happened again just a couple of days ago at the dealership when I was waiting to talk to the service writer about getting the oil changed.

Church is not like that.

The reasons to love church are harder to spot. Seeing them requires being in the right place at the right time – the way seeing that most gorgeous sunrise of the past year requires being in that part of the living room facing that direction that early in the morning, or seeing that brown thrasher dart out of the woods and feed her baby a worm required sitting on the back steps and staring off at the woods that precise minute.

Sometimes, noticing them requires looking past or around or through a lot of other things that get in the way of the view, or distract from it, or might even constitute reasons not to be there looking for it at all – the way seeing those precious violets of dawn requires looking at the base of the blocks instead of at the jalopy that’s up on them, or seeing the live performance of anything requires all that driving and traffic and parking and crowding and standing in line and squeezing into those narrow seats and leaning around the tall guy who always seems to be seated directly in front of you.

Instant demonstration opportunities are rare. Usually it’s more like … “Trust me … honest … wait for it …” Church is not like microwave popcorn; it’s more like barbeque. It’s less like flipping a switch and seeing the light, unless we’re the Apostle Paul. For most of us; it’s more like that slow reveal from just plain dark to almost daylight that happens early in the morning.

The reasons to go to church are elusive, sometimes even for people who have the habit of going to church. All the more elusive and non-obvious for people on the outside.

So why would anyone who doesn’t already have the habit of going to church decide to visit a church? To think about wanting to acquire that habit? To make the shift from “not being a church person” to “being a church person”?

This is not an idle question.

Our little church is like lots of churches in the United States these days: small, and challenged.

From the outside, it’s “nothing special.”

As far as that goes, from the inside it’s “nothing special,” either, in a way.

It’s just … life.

We’re alive. More alive, we would say, than we used to be. More alive, more satisfied, happier since we got involved in this project of being part of a community of the spirit where we can be together and meet and learn from Christ, because Christ shows up on a regular basis.

At least – that’s what those of us who have learned to recognize that would say.

That’s a lot to offer, honestly.

But what makes that … obvious?

a road turns into woods in spring

5 responses to “Out of Sight”

  1. The ultimate challenge for church attendance is to have people, professed believers, get past the “what do I get out of it?” mentality. With God, we get everything. Beyond understanding everything. In the Catholic Mass, my favorite prayer is the one that explains why, truly why, we are to attend … “It is always right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you praise O God almighty Father through Jesus Christ Your Son.”
    We are the BODY of Christ. We are not ALONE in Christ. We attend to be one body, to give thanks and praise. Not to get.
    But does that equal love? Probably not. And that’s the second challenge. And it stems from the same “what do I get?” root. Oh dear this is hard.


    • Thanks, Tim – and, I agree that attending church, for people who have developed the relationship with God and one another you describe, feels both obligatory AND satisfying – no contradiction in those two, necessarily, either. But for outsiders, I suspect that mostly comes across as daft.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All Christians belong in the Vine in the Body church attendance displays whose we are and to whom we belong. Some places in the world see church attenders are persecuted and punished for their faith, they still carry on meeting together. I belong to Jesus, our heavenly Father has placed me in the arms of Christ so that I know for myself what His will is, and that is just as I would not tear myself away from the arms of Christ neither would I refuse or break fellowship with


    • Thanks, WLB, for the useful perspective. I’ve certainly done my share of showing up strictly because worshipping God is the right thing to do. Accurate though it may be, however, I don’t think many unchurched people will be able to share this perspective.


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