still part of the family

My name is Michael Clinger.  I’m 21 years old.  And I love the church.

Statistically speaking, I shouldn’t feel this way.  By now I should have grown out of it.  I should like Jesus, but not the church.  Because the church is old and irrelevant, right?  Because Jesus was good, and Christians are hypocrites.  Because there’s just nothing for me at church anymore.  Because church is boring, and it doesn’t change anything.  Because Christians are bigots and aren’t at all like Jesus.  Because the church is filled with fake people sitting in multi-million dollar buildings who go there to be seen.  Because Christians put their metaphorical noses where they don’t belong.  Because Christians tell the world what is wrong with it while completely ignoring their own issues.  Because by now, I’ve realized that there is no difference between Christians and other people, with the exception of a Sunday morning obligation that is.

By now, I should be pretty far removed from the church, but I’m not.

I love the church.  

Growing up, I didn’t have a choice whether or not I would go to church.  I was there three times a week if not more because my parents were bigger than me, smarter than me, and were in charge.  Oh, I didn’t want to go to church?  That’s too bad because I was going.  I soon learned that I could do this the easy way or the hard way, but both had the same result.  The result being me, at church, with my parents.  Once while on a three-week family vacation in the summer of 2003, my parents did some research on local churches and found the church of Christ in town… we were in South Dakota… on a road-trip vacation… and we had to go to church.  Why? Because it was Sunday, and my parents saw the value of being with the Church on the first day of the week.  So what did me and my brothers do?  We sat through it.  I remember wondering how long we’d have to hang around afterwards as people continued to talk to my parents.  Often we would be near the last, if not THE last, to leave the church building on Sundays (and Wednesdays…).  Why?  Because my parents were about their Father’s business.  Because they saw value in the people who make up the Church.  And what did my two brothers and I do while they talked?  Did we have someone stay with us?  Did we have games to play with each other?  No.  We could stand there begging our parents to please let us leave, or we could find other ways to entertain ourselves.  I know the layout of that church building like the back of my hand, and it’s because we would goof off and run around.  I remember being often scolded by my parents for running in the church building.  “You’re going to run into an old lady and knock her over,” was a very common critique by my parents.  Shouldn’t my parents have been terrified that I could get taken or lost?  Maybe, but the thing about growing up in church is that many an adult would have felt comfortable grabbing me and returning me to my parents. It takes a village to raise a child?  That village was my church.  That church was my family.  That church IS my family.

And as I’ve gone through three and a half years of college, those relationships still endure.  Obviously things aren’t exactly the same.  I can’t remember the last time I fell and hit my face on the ground, or pew, or bench, or other and was taken care of, but I do know that I have a network of people who love me and care for me deeply.  A group of people who are my family.  And by their very nature, families are dysfunctional.  Families are groups of imperfect people who claim one another because blood is thicker than water (at least that’s what my mom would say).  But the Church’s blood is even thicker.  That being the blood of Jesus.

So no, the Church isn’t perfect.  It doesn’t always work together for good, and sometimes individuals or subgroups from the Church go rogue and bring infamy to the family, but I believe that Jesus loves the Church, and I believe He’s coming back.  Because of that, I claim the Church.  I am part of the Church, and I love the Church.

Father, bring renewal in the hearts of Your people.  Awaken Your Church, and those who feel jaded towards it.  Let the desires of Your heart become the desires of ours.  You are good, holy, and sovereign.  In all things, let Your will be done as it is in heaven.  Through Jesus we pray, Amen.

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O God, early in the morning I cry to you. Help me to pray and to concentrate my thoughts on you; I cannot do this alone. 

In me there is darkness, but with you there is light; I am lonely, but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help; I am restless, but with you there is peace. 

In me there is bitterness, but in you there is patience; I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer