How did you end up at the church where you are now? What lies behind that decision you made? How much of it was consciously thinking through Biblical texts and principles and how much was what feels right? And if the latter what influenced how you felt?
Society seeks to shape us in all sorts of ways. It’s impact is seen in all sorts of things. Not least how we choose which church we will go to. Consumerism, individualism, entertainment, and a desires for comfort are all bigger influences on us that we would like to think or recognise. And they exhibit their pull in all sorts of ways over all sorts of decisions, not least our decision over which church to attend.
Our parents, peers and mentors also have hugely significant roles to play in determining our attitude and approach when it comes to choosing a church. I am grateful for parents who instilled into us, and modelled to us, service in the church. The church I grew up in wasn’t big, or THE church to be at, but it was a place to commit to, which held out the gospel, taught the Bible and loved people. That’s why, after a few years at a big church whilst at Uni we returned there to serve. The only young married couple, with no one within ten years either side of us in terms of peers. Our thought wasn’t what can I get out of this, but how can we serve. Not as the answer, we knew we weren’t the answer, but how could we serve Christ and his people here?
That attitude of serving was instilled into me at a young age. But I recognise there are competing calls, I feel the pull of going someone bigger, where there is less responsibility, less need to be involved, where things are a bit easier, numbers a bit bigger, things a bit flashier. I feel that even though I pastor a small church in a tough area. I understand the attraction of a church with a big youth group my boys could thrive in. I count the cost as a parent of the children in a small Sunday School. I mourn the loss of other families who have moved on looking for something bigger for their kids with more peers because in part of the message that gives the rest of the church. And yet God calls me to serve him and others not to consume him, or want to be entertained but to be formed into his image as I serve him where he has put me.
And in reality to choose to do that is not heroic, it’s not sacrificial. I cannot count the innumerable ways in which every small church I have been a part of has been a blessing to me. Shaping me. Confronting me. Challenging me. Showing me again the wonder of knowing others deeply enough to one another well and over a committed long-term.
So what has shaped where you are and why? How much of it was conscious and how much subconscious? How much was deliberate and principled and how much was default?