Last week, after 92 years,my Nana passed away. Nana’s family was her life. With 5 children, 22 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren, she had a lot to live for! Nana never forgot birthdays, never allowed her grandchildren to do household chores and looked after us like we were royalty. As the eldest grandson, of course I would say, she was a great woman. She was a no fuss Nana, who never asked for much for herself. She served the community with meals on wheels for 40 years. She loved serving others.
Nana was never a churchy lady. I suspect her funeral in the little Austinmer Uniting chapel was more ‘Christian’ than she may have chosen. She did have a church Elder for a husband, a Pastor for a daughter, and a Pastor for a grandson. She probably would have been reluctantly happy with it. I think Nana was not churchy for many reasons. She didn’t like ‘religious’ people, hypocrisy, telling others what to do. I agree with Nana, I don’t like that kind of church either. My sister and Aunty told me last year my Nana was open to becoming a follower of Jesus, on the condition she wouldn’t have to go to church. Church was a real stumbling block.
Church can be a block for people. Like Nana, many would find Christian faith easier to come to, if they didn’t have to go to church. Sure, we are not ‘saved’ by our church attendance, but this is not how following Jesus works. When we become Christians, we become members of the family of faith. Faith does not remain a personal and private matter. Following Jesus also requires reorientating relationships. In a time when people who attend church 2 out of 4 weeks are considered ‘regular’ church goers, it is important we check our commitment to our church community. When we become followers of Jesus, avoidance of church must be dealt with. Afterall, in glory we will find ourselves spending eternity with the family of faith we are trying to evade.
I respect the challenge for people who become Christians from unchurched backgrounds. Non-Christian partners or family members can feel the church gets too much time; friends may feel abandoned for the Christian community. How incredible when people weigh up this challenge and choose Jesus and his Church anyway. I celebrate the commitment of people in our church who continually wrestle with this choice daily.