A Church Even an Atheist Can Endorse

I was at the dollar store one day and overheard a man tell the cashier he was a pastor at a local church. I had been looking for a church for my son to attend, but I had to be comfortable with the message they were giving.

I asked the man where his church was and while he was telling me about his church I politely explained I don’t “have the faith,” but my son does. “Jesus loves you anyway” was his response and yet another church was crossed of the list of possibilities.

Last Sunday, March 15, 2015, I finally took my son to church! I found out about the church through PANCAKES! The church has “Serve Saturdays” once a month. This particular Saturday they were going around offering pancakes to everyone in my neighborhood. Like always, I politely explained that I don’t believe and wasn’t interested in listening to their pitch (I’m not a fan of doorstep preachers.) They said that’s ok and they still wanted to give me pancakes. No “Jesus loves you anyway,” no nasty looks, no immediate tangent on their personal testimony to God’s existence…

My friend and her sons attend the church, so last weekend I dropped them and my son off at church. I went a little early to pick them up and spoke with some people about the church. I explained I wanted a place for my son to worship. The ladies I spoke with were very friendly, never skipped a beat even when my dirty non-believing secret came out. We were still invited to the church. Again, not a single person tried to shove it down my throat!

So, I went this Sunday. I have to say, I was a little creeped out. I get it, these people are deeply convinced that God exists, but I was half expecting people to start going into convulsions and fall on the ground (No one did.) The pastor made the sermon entertaining. He joked, he was serious, he was personable, and I think, if you believe in it, he probably delivered a powerful message. They’re doing a series on how to live through a bad day.

The pastor asked everyone to write a secret they’re keeping on a portion of the paper they provide and put it in the offering bucket as they pass it around. My secret: I’m envious of people who believe and have faith in God. I think it’s extremely intriguing that some how they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists. I don’t think I even have that much faith that I’m awake and not dreaming all of this!

If there was any chance of me believing, I think today would’ve done it. I know, cliche, my first time attending church as an adult and getting filled with the spirit of Christ… Well, it didn’t happen, but if it were ever possible, it would’ve happened today!

My friend had been taking notes on the sermon the entire time, I even gave her my paper for sermon notes because she ran out of room on her own paper. At the bottom is a perforated portion where I suppose you’re supposed to write comments on the sermon and drop it into the offering bucket. This is where the pastor had asked us all to write our secret. We weren’t prepared for it so the note that ran onto this portion for my friend was “You’re only as sick as the secrets you keep.” She tore this portion off anyway and wrote her secret on it. Then, the pastor asked that we share our secret with someone we know. Like he had been preaching, you can’t get help when you’re struggling unless you’re transparent enough to ask for help. Her secret… She relapsed. I felt honored she had shared her secret with me. I think she’s an incredible person, even while struggling with drug addiction. She’s gathered the strength to face it and she’s been working on her recovery.

After service let out she asked if I thought she should talk to the pastor. If you’re a part of a church and you believe, I say use your church! Not in the selfish, narcissistic manner of abusive use, but it’s a resource to be used! I reminded her of the sermon he had given. He’s there to help, but can’t if he doesn’t know you’re struggling. I was extremely impressed that she took my advice and his sermon to heart when she asked the pastor for help. It was also truly impressive to see he never seemed to judge her. He immediately offered the aide of Christian counselors and told her about a recovery group the church plans to start later this year. I have high hopes for her with the spiritual portion of her recovery being fulfilled!

Afterward, we got the kids from children’s church. My son came bouncing out of the room. He said they talked about worshipping God. I haven’t really gotten into asking him more questions about it. I’m not comfortable with an in-depth religious conversation with him yet. I really want religion or a lack thereof to be his choice. When I have more answers from attending church, I might ask more about his day at church. Until then, I’m satisfied he enjoys the experience and he’s excited for next Sunday.

My take away from the day: You’re only as sick as the secrets you keep. You don’t have to believe in God to know that. Your friends and family are just as much of a support system as a church is. They don’t know you’re struggling unless you’re willing to make yourself vulnerable and ask for the help you need. Don’t drown when the life raft is within reach.

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