'Do I have to cover my shoulders?'
'Should I register? Do I have to pay entry?'
'Will I be judged if I wear ripped jeans?'
Amongst many, many others, these are some genuine questions I had before I walked into church for the first time on February 2nd, 2014. My family are not Christian, and my church experience began and ended with a wedding and a couple of Christenings. The word ‘worship’ sounded like a cult ritual and the idea of reading the Bible both bored and terrified me because let’s face it, it’s a pretty big book. So why did I decide to try church?
4 of my friends in year 13 were Christians.
They defied the stereotype of ‘Christian’ that I held in my mind. They weren’t weird, they didn’t judge my poor choices (and there were a lot of them), and they didn’t bible-bash me. Instead, they listened to me, they saw past my mistakes, and they didn’t get frustrated when I asked the tough questions.
Our conversations about who Jesus was and how I could be loved by a Heavenly Father led to questions and suggestions that perhaps I should visit church. Despite numerous invitations from friends, I decided to find a church alone. I was adamant that I would not be swayed by others' opinions and beliefs, and if this was going to be my faith, then it would be exactly that; my faith.
'Churches near me'
I googled 'churches near me', picked one based on the quality of the website and emailed the church asking if I needed to register beforehand, to which they replied no. I jumped on a train the following morning and was greeted by a family who had children my age who asked if I wanted to sit with them.
My first church experience was not extraordinary on the surface, but in some ways, it was. There was no 'epiphany' and I didn’t suddenly believe everything I heard. I asked questions and in some instances, debated with the people God had evidently put around me. They were patient, full of grace and invited me into their family, sin and all.
And that's when I realised. Church was never about being ‘sin-free’. It wasn’t about covering my shoulders or worrying about what people would think of my ripped jeans. It wasn’t about trying to know all the answers or acting like everything was perfect. It wasn’t about being a ‘happy-clappy Christian’, as I once described it. It was simply this. In the worst times, the times where you can’t see a way out and life just seems melancholy, Jesus is there to bring colour. He is there to bring light and clarity, and a family to do life alongside you.
Trying church was the best decision I have ever made, so I challenge you, from one imperfect person with too many rips in her jeans to another, try church.
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