Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Reflections on Church

Old Church in Dunlap, Missouri, via Robert Huffstutter 
I grew up in a hippy home church. Well, that's how I like to describe it. Just a handful of us coming together to sing hand-clapping, foot-stomping, praise songs. I learned so much from growing up in the home church environment and from an early age, I understood what living a Christian life was and how to do it practically.

When I moved to California in 2010, Kurt and I began looking for a church to attend together. Besides a youth group I'd attended at another church, it was my first time venturing away from my non-denominational home church roots. It was tough for me. I quickly discovered that my biggest battle was against my own judgementalness (why isn't that word?).

I found myself sitting in church with tears running down my face, mainly out of my own frustration with not knowing how to process the experience. I'd never recited the Nicene or Apostles' Creed, only sung a handful of hymns and didn't understand why pastors wore robes. But that wasn't the main thing I noticed; I noticed that I despised these things even though I'd never experienced them and didn't understand them. Perhaps I despised them for those very reasons.

I was also frustrated at myself for allowing church to be the place I was most judgmental. Why did I categorize so much of what I saw as "silly"? Was I just insecure about my lack of knowledge or did I really think deep-down that something about these things was wrong?

I've come to realize it was a lot of the first and a little of the latter.

I started, as many non-believers do, at the beginning: by doing research to discover the reasoning behind the things the church does and whether there's truth to them. I'm still not a fan of pastors wearing robes or Christians wearing their denomination's symbol as a pin on their Sunday best, but I have grown to love and appreciate many other aspects of a more traditional church. 

Hymns, for example, have revolutionized my Christian walk. I still have difficulty singing them and wish I didn't have to rely so heavily on the hymnal, but that's nothing in light of how they've impacted my life over the last two years.

I love that hymns don't try to match our ever-changing culture. They weren't created to please the young person or draw non-believers in, they were written to bring glory and honor to Whom it's due. Reading hymn lyrics and learning the stories behind them has really taught me to love them. They are so rich and have much to offer musically, lyrically and historically. Their beauty resembles the beauty of the King I serve, their lyrics speak deep Christian truths and their history reminds me of the body of Christ that I'm part of. Trust and Obey, Be Still My Soul and Abide With Me, are three of my favorites.

I'm not exactly sure why I sat down to write this post. I suppose I wanted to say that being judgmental really stunts spiritual growth. I'm still learning this daily, but I'm so happy I am. And I also want to say, that despite many failings on the church's part throughout history, that there's still a lot to be proud of and to learn from it. We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to tradition. We're a part of something bigger than ourselves - an eternal community - that's rich and powerful.

Michaela Rae


  1. Oh my... I have had this same experience in my church going life! I thought I might be the only one.

    I remember going to church with my husband--a new church to both of us, and feeling immense anxiety when they walked down the aisle with the gold metal thing swinging the steam/smoke ball.

    And then at future churches when I saw some sort of long metal thing coming down the aisle I feared it was the same smoke ball--turns out it was just the flame to light the candles.

    It's silly that I get so worked up about the rituals and missed that God was still present at each of these Christ loving communities.

    silly me.

    But I am right there with ya on the hymns. Though I was not raised on hymns--they sure hold a special place in my heart now.

    Glad you posted this. Something I'm not sure I would have been able to formulate as well as you. :)

  2. It's interesting to hear you grew up in a home church. That has always been the ideal for me, because I didn't grow up in that environment, but I saw the ways larger churches often stretched their resources too thin and the ways small groups really supported and united people. It's hard for me not to be judgmental of both liturgical and non-liturgical churches who don't realize that what they are doing is traditional, and not mandatory. But I think many different church environments can be good when they understand how their organization plays into their belief. My husband and I gave up on church where we are, but hopefully we'll find somewhere when we move. - Leah

    1. There are a lot of pros to a home church and one of my favorites is how strong the community can be. No church is perfect though, that's for sure. I definitely agree with you about realizing the role of tradition. It's pretty sad when people just start going through the motions without further thought, but I guess we're susceptible to that anywhere. I really hope you and your husband find a place when you move!!

  3. Oh I love "Be still my soul." It's always been one of my favorites. I always found that hymns seem to say exact what my heart wants to express that my mind doesn't know how to put to words.

    I have always loved going to church, and even though I attend my own church regularly, my husband and I love visiting other churches. I'm always find myself with a feeling in awe/peace when I see how other people worship and find faith in God. Even though it is so different than what I am used to, I still think there is power in a group of people reflecting in what they hold so sacred in their hearts.

    I loved this blog post. Gave me a few things to think about as I'm getting ready to go to church.

  4. I grew up in a unique little home church, too, but perhaps not so hippyish. We sang all kinds of songs. One of my favorite hymns is It Is Well with My Soul which has such deeply touching origins.

    There's a trend for people to rebel against their traditions, but it's neat to experience them from the outside and enjoy them as something new, perhaps in ways that people who grew up with them overlook or find difficult because they can feel trapped by them.

    It is something magnificent to find confidence in your own discernment so that you can enjoy adventures in other people's worship.

    I enjoyed your post. :-)

    1. Kevin, I love that one as well! And you're right, although the Christian circles I grew up in generally looked negatively on more traditional churches, I do get to experience it all anew.

      Thanks for your recent comments on my posts!

  5. I didn't grow up in a home church, but I grew up nondenominational with a lot of praise songs and not much tradition. I get frustrated quickly too, wishing the music of the church we go to now would be more up-tempo or that they'd be more relaxed. And really, its a heart issue .That same negative attitude easily carries over into my attitude with my marriage or where we live.

    Hymns are such a blessing, aren't they! I like verses set to music too, seeds family worship has some good ones.

  6. i really love this post. it really comes down to not liking change. especially when it comes to the church. just because different aspects in the church changes, doesnt mean God changes. obviously there werent hymns when Jesus walked on earth, and the hymns arent used as much today as they were 100 years ago..yet God still can move mightily.
    i liked what you said about not liking that church was the place you became judgmental. its sad, but alot of us can do that. ive been there, and God checked me on it. Other churches, denominations, flavors of worship...etc.. its all still God, and they are all still Gods children...loving him ...


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