I have been going to church as long as I can remember. Sometimes I love it. But I have to admit that sometimes I would rather stay home. It’s kind of like deciding where to eat breakfast. Would I rather sit in bed eating pancakes while watching a good movie, or go out and sit in a fancy restaurant on a hard chair with a napkin on my lap with a bunch of people I don’t know? Even worse, what if I don’t like several of the people at the table? What if the food or sermon is no good? Sometimes church is great, interesting preacher, spiritual food worth eating, good friends – but not always.
As you read my “church lady” stories it will become apparent that church is like family. Ideally the church family provides us with spiritual parents who love us no matter what, discipline us when we do wrong, train us to do right, educate us and introduce us to our spiritual relatives. The trouble starts when some of these relatives are fathers who always criticise you, brothers who beat you up, sisters who make fun of you, and maybe even uncles who abuse you. Some church families are better than others. I’ve been in good ones and bad ones.
Can we get to know God without a church family? Maybe just watch a good TV preacher? I guess that’s like asking, “Can a baby grow up all alone with just a speaker in the room?” The Bible says we all need milk first and then later adult food. (I Peter 2:2) And I think babies need mothers in order to get milk.
The Bible also describes us as sheep who need a shepherd. The word “pastor” means shepherd. (Jeremiah 3:15) Pastors serve the role Jesus served in leading, teaching, encouraging, correcting, and curbing our stupid mistakes. Spiritual mothers and fathers help us grow up to become the next generation of adults. I don’t think we can do this without a church family. In some cases where a child has only one parent, church members actually serve in the role of the missing parent.
All of my “church lady” stories are real. Some are disturbing. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty. There is no perfect church. As the “church lady” Christian education director and teacher, I felt it was my responsibility to make things better when church was not so good. Maybe some of my experiences will inspire you to do the same.
Dolly Parton – “The Church in the Wildwood”