This was written in response to Elizabeth Tan’s story, “3 questions to ask before changing church“.
I read the article by Elizabeth in which she wrote about her decision to change church. While I do not know Elizabeth personally nor her situation in its entirety enough to judge, I can imagine her church must have been sad to see her leave. I feel saddened too because it hits home.
You see, I am a young adult in a small family church consisting of mainly older adults and the elderly. I worry that when the children in my church grow older, they will leave for the younger “hip” churches, and that they will think the same way as Elizabeth thinks.
Young adults change church for a variety of reasons. It could be doctrinal issues. Or that they got married and had to switch to their spouse’s church. But when they say they want to change church because they feel more comfortable with another community, I would like to caution them to think twice.
The Bible does not explicitly spell out rules on changing church, but we do know that whatever decision we make, it should be Spirit-led, and not just about one’s feelings.
We live in a society where we are posed with so many choices, and we are also more empowered to make decisions than any generation before. We have the freedom to choose and customise whatever we want. By extension, we like to choose our friends too. Form our own cliques.
It is human nature to want to gravitate towards those who are similar to us. Especially with the challenges of growing up and entering into adulthood, where we long for that friendship support, to be with peers where we can really be known and understood.
Dear friend, maybe, the reality you face on Sunday is not what you hope for. Maybe you are the one resigned to the fact that your front view will always consist of toothless old people with bad coughs. Maybe you are the one who’s wondering how long you can tolerate the well-meaning but naggy words of advice from that patronising auntie with her 80’s perm and dress sense that is so different from yours.
It is human nature to want to gravitate towards those who are similar to us.
Maybe you are the one always sandwiched awkwardly between that woman with a dark past and that uncle who just underwent a major surgery; you don’t really know what to say to them beyond the usual small talk. Or maybe, you just wish you could sit with someone different other than your parents.
Times like this, you must feel lonely.
Because given all these, the reality is that not only are there no young people, which young person would want to come to such a place?
You would not be wrong to wish you had other young people to sit with during the service, to shield you from all that, to make sitting through the sermon more bearable, especially after being worn out by your own battles that you have fought the other six days of the week.
My friend, it must be hard.
But what if you had something more in common with those people around you at church than you thought?
CHRIST IS THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
Do you know that when you became a Christian, you were born again, born into the family of God?
You probably have something in common with someone if you are the same age, have the same bloodline or go to the same school. But compared to this, do you realise you have something even more in common with those sitting around you in church – people who love the same God?
United by the same faith – is that not that a greater interest that binds us together more than anything else?
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
The Fellowship of the Believers in Acts 2:42-47 depicts the first church, the model of what we always extol as the “ideal” church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.
“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
How united they were! Having everything in common! And they were there for each other every day. Do you notice the Bible does not say that the believers had everything in common with regards to their ages or hobbies or social status?
Instead, the verses indicate they had the same interests in the sense that they loved hearing God’s word. They loved praying together. They loved charity. They loved being thankful to God.
If you love doing all that, your conversation topics with those around you in church will never run dry. But it takes effort to intentionally love one another and to adopt the same attitude.
Will you start trying today?
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2)
YOUR DIFFERENCES WILL GROW YOU
Sometimes, God puts you with people who are different from you so as to take you out of your comfort zone. With them, you can learn patience and tolerance and understanding. You can learn to serve others humbly, as you sacrifice your own interests to make way for the interests of others.
You can also learn from the experiences of others, especially older aunties and uncles who have gone through what we are now going through. I’ve seen God’s faithfulness in their lives amidst all the hardships they’ve faced, and that encourages me not to waver in my faith.
I learnt wisdom from the older folk, and how to be more mature (alongside many other things ranging from delicious traditional recipes and practical advice on dealing with unbelieving parents).
And I realised along the way, that I truly enjoyed spending time with them, more than my time spent with my peers on social media or talking about the latest movie.
“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
A LOVING CHURCH IS AN ATTRACTIVE CHURCH
Other young people are attracted to come to church not primarily because the church has other young people they can relate to, but because they are attracted to Jesus. And in Jesus’ own words, they can see God’s love only through the love you and your church members show to each other.
It is this unity that attracts pre-believers to this family too.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Yes, maybe my church crowd can’t completely understand the stresses I face at school. But I have always felt their love for me. I know they love and care for me, even when I wasn’t easy to love or care for.
They’ve accepted me for who I am, and vice versa. And that has given me strength to get through week after draining week.
Look around you in church and you will see there is no lack of people who need love.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway. From now till the end of March 2018, we are giving away a pack of limited edition Thir.st “Greater Love” Stickers in exchange for every story. Stories must have a personal/local angle and be of 800-1000 words. Send us yours here.