by Janet Holm McHenry
I was raised going to church.
Every Sunday we five kids put on our best clothes and headed out the door with Mom and Dad. My sister Nan and I were old enough to sing in the girls’ choir, so for the first service we donned choir robes and sang from sideways pews up the steps by the altar.
My not-very-vast understanding of the faith came from habits. Rituals. You went to church. You said the faith responses. You said the prayers. You sang the hymns. You did your best to stay awake during the sermon. Church was the foundation of my faith all through high school.
And then, during the summer after my senior year of high school, we learned our married minister had been seeing the women’s ministries director. All of a sudden, the foundation of my faith crumbled. If the leader of the church failed, what was that faith thing all about anyway?
I went off to college, where learning seemingly became more of a life foundation. Then, in my sophomore year my roommate and a friend took me to a free movie: For Pete’s Sake. The main character Pete was a mess of wrong thinking and behavior but learned that he could experience freedom through a personal relationship with Christ.
That word kept bouncing around in my head. Faith could and should be personal? Others were not responsible for my faith? I could have a personal relationship with God simply by my choice to believe and put my faith in Jesus?
I made a commitment to follow Christ that night. And I learned that church was never meant to be a faith foundation; it’s simply there for fellowship with other believers, for a forum for worshipping the God who desires that we have a relationship with Him, and for challenge for personal growth.
I now go to church because I love being with others who also follow the God I love. I go to church to be challenged by God’s Word. And I go to church to worship. While I can sing that music from home, I know that attending church is critical to my spiritual formation and for the expression of my faith.
Church is not my foundation, but it encourages me to keep looking up.
We know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:16 NIV
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Janet McHenry is a speaker and author of 24 books—six of those on prayer including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. For almost 40 years, she has lived in the Sierra Valley of northern California, where her husband is a cattle rancher and where she taught high school English. She would love to connect with you on social media and through her Looking Up! website: https://www.janetmchenry.com.
Join the conversation: When did you go from your family’s faith to a personal relationship with God?