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?