What is it?
When you hear that word, what do you think?
I know a lot of people cringe at the thought of it. Let alone going to it. Why would I want to go to church, be judged, be put in my place, have a load of old people tell me I messed up big time. Why would I want to spend my day off going to a place like that.
Other people are anti-church maybe they think, it’s just a place full of religious phonies, who are out to exploit you and take your money.
Then there are those who don’t really have any opinion of the church, they just imagine it’s a bit of a boring place, where loads of old people gather and sing a few songs, it’s nice for Christmas and Easter but I wouldn’t want to go there every week.
Or maybe it’s just this… a nice building.
There are so many different opinions of church and what it is, what it’s about. A lot of our opinions can be swayed by other’s opinions or bad stories we have heard, or bad experiences we have had.
But I want to encourage you to just take the time to really think what do you feel when you hear the word ‘church’?
This weekend I had a long chat with my mum about church. She reminded me that not so long ago I had a very negative attitude towards church.
I believed that the church was full of people who judged you, a place where people took you at face value and didn’t want to open their mind to who you could be. I believed it to be full of fakes, who weren’t genuinely welcoming and would judge me for who I am.
Ok so I had, had a few bad experiences at university. I had tried to go to a new church with some of my non-Christian friends but instead of being welcomed I had been ignored at the back of the room, everyone was too busy to take any notice of us, and no one tried to be our friend or make us feel welcome.
After that other Christians from the church that went to my university started questioning my Christianity, making me feel unworthy of the right to be a Christian. I had never met such confrontation and for someone who was finding that life not being a Christian was just as much fun, it was the push over the cliff, so I resolved that I didn’t need church.
Instead when I saw those people around campus I created stories in my head, I imagined they were judging my lifestyle and spreading rumours about me to exclude me further from the church. My whole image of the church was as a secluded club where only the really good people where welcome, only the ones who lived lives like Jesus.
I didn’t need to go to a church to believe in Jesus. I believed inside that was all I needed. Even my friends agreed with me, “You believe, no one can take that away from you, you don’t need to join a load of snobs at church to make you a Christian.”
I believed this for many years. My friends, tried to invite me to church but I refused. My mother, tried to encourage me to go to church and find ‘a nice man’. I still refused. I was stubborn and rather than choosing to spread love, I chose to spread my obstinate opinions around.
When my mother reminded me of this, I laughed. I can’t imagine ever holding that opinion now. Granted not all churches are the same, they don’t all fall into one category. But my whole view of ‘church’ has changed. I no longer have to cringe in guilt when I hear that name.
So what made me change?
Well first of all, I gave in and decided to open my mind and try going to a church, that church turned out to be Jesus Lifehouse Osaka. But before I go there, let me explain, the real reason is my whole view of the church has changed.
This isn’t just because of Jesus Lifehouse but my whole idea of what a church should be has changed.
A church isn’t just a building, it isn’t just a place for people to hang out, sing songs and get preached at… it’s a whole lot more than that.
At the conference Pastor Steven Kaylor spoke about three components that make a church – GREAT!
The first one is key – it’s what it is all about! Without it, you just have a group of people. It’s what the church should be centred around, we can’t forget this vital ingredient.
The wonderful, powerful, loving, caring, awesome, close, relevant, original Jesus.
In the middle of the church needs to be Jesus.
The answer to everything is Jesus.
It’s through Jesus that we can be the best person we were designed to be. With Jesus there is hope, with Jesus there is light.
Our focus needs to be on Jesus, not on each other, not on our own mess or each others mess, but on Him.
The second thing about church, is life. It needs to breathe life into all its members. It needs to live and speak life.
From Jesus comes life.
Psalm 16 v 11 “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”
In the bible there are many stories where Jesus healed people and gave them life.
Jesus gave us life, but it’s how we use it that matters – the church can help us out with that.
Pastor Joel, compared life to a car, we drive it wherever we want it to go, but living life, driving places, going somewhere always means gas is going to get eaten up, we are going to run out of fuel and energy, time and love. But Jesus has given us a great gasoline stand; he can fill us up with gas, give us love, peace, joy, passion and more vitality to live life!
The church is like the gas station, it can do two things – change our life and equip it. We can have fun at church but it can also teach us how to live a great life, how to have great relationships, how to be successful in our careers, how to manage our money.
Instead of getting dating tips from magazines, it can show us how to have a strong foundation in marriage.
In church we can really grow and become the person we always wanted to be!
The third thing Pastor Joel pointed out is that it’s a place for us to belong; it’s our house, our family. It’s not a substitute for the family we already have but it’s an extended family that can help us grow strong.
A place where we are accepted, not judged, but loved and respected. Through Jesus we can be adopted into his family. This family will want to celebrate with us, help us in life – to create the best relationships, to have success, they will look after us and nourish us.
Psalm 92 v 13 “For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own House. The flourish in the courts of our God.”
Being in the house of God means that everyone cares about everyone!
When I went to church at university I didn’t realise that it was these 3 things I was actually looking for.
Jesus, Life and a House.
There are a lot of churches around that embody these three things, but I didn’t believe that.
When I started going to Jesus Life house, I was amazed, everyone there was interested in me, they wanted to get to know ME! They cared about
Genuinely. Not only that, but they all were so full of love, Jesus love, that they couldn’t stop smiling and sharing their happiness with each other. I didn’t meet an unfriendly face. I had so much fun! I was welcomed into their arms!
The other thing that made me take a step back was that all these people really wanted to grow, they wanted better lives, and they were taking action towards it. They knew the answer, Jesus.
It was contagious to say the least. But from that day my view of church changed.
Now I know that it’s not just a place where people want to make you feel bad or tell you that you’ve messed up. It’s not a place for judging or taking your money.
Instead it really is a great place to make friends, have fun, find Jesus, revitalise your life and be welcomed into a family who accept you for you!
If you don’t believe come down and see for yourself!
Everyone has their own reasons for not going to church, but don’t let a bad experience put you off from trying again.
Maybe you are like I was, you believe in Jesus or a God, but you don’t think you need to go to church to continue believing in Him.
When I was not going to church, the more I refused to go, the further away from Jesus I got. In the end my relationship with him was pretty non-existent. Really I stopped believing all together, I didn’t need Jesus, I thought. Then my life became pretty dire, because the thing was I did need Jesus and I did need people to encourage me in my faith. We can’t do it on our own, but we can do it with Jesus and other people who will spur us on to be more than what we imagine to be, to help us grow and live the best life we can.
Whatever your reasons are for not going, why don’t you put them aside for just a minute and give it a go!
Come to Jesus Lifehouse Osaka! The people are so lovely, the music is awesome and the message will change your life!
We are in Shinsaibashi on Sundays, and in Namba on tuesdays!
Check out our website!