When I first became a Christian, I had no idea how to get involved in a church or the real purpose of one. To me a church was a building that you go in once a week to listen to somebody talk about God. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When I was in high school my best friend was a Christian, though I respected her beliefs and would be furious at any one who would make fun of her over them, I didn’t engage with her about them. However, I did attend her church kids club with her a few times. For me, it was more a place to socialise than to actually learn about God.
It’s hard to believe that all those years later, that having become a Christian and finally summoning up the courage to go to church, I remembered that place. Not because of it’s teachings about God, but because of how kind people had been to me there, which is actually the cornerstone of Christianity. It wasn’t much but it was all I had to go on. Now I look back at my life before I became a Christian and can see the plan that God had for me even then.
“When I very first attended church, I didn’t know why I was there or what I was meant to do.”R.E Harper
I still remember that first day I walked in to the church, feeling nervous that I was about to meet people who were probably nothing like me. As I walked in by myself, lots of surprised faces turned to look at me. “Are you ok?” asked an older man kindly. I nodded wondering why I was there, but I still answered, “I’m here for the service.” He nodded and introduced himself as Steve, the pastor. Slowly, but surely everybody introduced themselves and were incredibly kind.
I listened to the service with fascination; there was worship at first, which didn’t surprise me because I’d been to funerals and weddings. Then there was a sermon; I can’t now remember what it was about except that I found it very interesting; I’d never heard anybody talk about God like that before. At the end of the service, I remember trying to sneak out quietly unsure what to do, but Steve the pastor followed me out. “That was probably rather difficult for your heart to understand.” He said, I smiled at him and said, “I think I got it.” A lovely lady named Mary, gave me her number and I gave her mine then I left not feeling any different except perhaps intrigued by what I had seen and heard.
A few days later, I got an invite from Mary to come for tea at her house, which I accepted eager to get to know more Christians now that I had accepted my fate. I wasn’t sure what to expect at that tea except maybe a lot of preaching, but Mary was lovely and reminded me that Christians are merely people. She asked me about my life and told me about hers, then we parted, and I felt glad I knew at least one person at the church more than I had before.
It was only a few months later, that I actually discovered I’d become part of a Pentecostal church. You’re probably wondering what an earth that means, well so did I at the time. Christianity by definition is simply believing in Christ and his teachings. However, there are many different types of churches that go their own way in terms of teaching about and acting on that belief.
Catholics follow the pope who is the head of the catholic church and there is a lot of confessional and rules in place, which come from the bible. Church of England tends to be very traditional in following the absolute teachings of Christ as written in the bible. The Methodist church is largely inspired by the teachings of John Wesley on his interpretations of the bible. A lot of which I have come to find is very good. The Baptist church places a lot of emphasis on being baptised and in the teachings of the bible. Pentecostal Christians like myself place a lot of emphasis on being born again Christians and having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s probably a very loose and stereotypical definitions of these types of churches and don’t forget every building may differ even under those banners.
I feel like I was always meant to be a Pentecostal Christian, because deep down I’ve always been about becoming a better person and learning and growing every day. What better way to do that than by following a person who was the ultimate example of what it means to be good. Anyway once I started going to church, I never looked back. I wasn’t doing it out of some moral obligation, I was doing it because I was excited and interested to hear about Jesus; this person who had made the ultimate sacrifice so that I could know him and God.
“Church isn’t just somewhere I go on a Sunday, it’s actually a huge part of who I am and what I do.”~R.E Harper
After attending church for a little while I got involved with the kids club through church and that brought me great joy as I’ve always loved helping children and teenagers find their way. I guess it’s because I know what it feels like to be lost. I was at church a few months before I reached a major life decision, spurred out by the fact that I was a child of God and that God had blessed me in ways I couldn’t imagine. I applied for university; yes me, the person who left school with only two GCSEs and thought they were by all accounts stupid.
The things is God doesn’t care about whether people are intelligent or not, he gives them the knowledge they need as and when they need it. Of course, that’s not an excuse for not putting any work in. While I was away at university I joined the Christian union and met someone there who became a very close friend. I must admit there were parts of it I found hard though. I was a lot younger than a lot of the rest of the union and I found it so difficult to find a church to belong to. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was because I’d had such strong foundational Christian teachings at my original church, that nothing seemed to match up.
Towards the end of 2020 when I had been a part of my church ten years, it came to a natural end. We had a small congregation and were struggling for resources. This led me to having to find another church, but this time with more knowledge of what I was looking for and a passion for God that I had never had before. I’m pleased to say I found a new local church where I feel very much at home. It offers good teaching and great people; some of which have become good friends.
Church is definitely not just a building, it’s the place where you meet your spiritual family and can grow in your faith.