I go to a new church. It focuses on transformation. It is welcoming to everyone, people of all types and backgrounds. The music is good and this morning, very inspirational. The speaker's message was relevant and life applicable, translating easily to my life and how I can grow and be a better person. I felt a connection with those around me, knowing we were sharing the same experiences and life together; a common purpose.
I left energized, refreshed, and at peace.
The only thing missing was God. And that sounds horrible, until I mention that my "church" was a spin class at the gym.
It is so strange how it works, but I enter and I am greeted. All people of all abilities are welcome, but we'll all be challenged. Today I met a new instructor. I've now attended several spin classes with a total of 4 instructors.
R is a bubbly extroverted personality. I think that she attracts a following because I've now been to two of her classes and they are always packed. She knows people by name, and even knows their stories and weekend plans. She has a lot of commentary during her songs, her shrill laugh and voice penetrating the music thanks to a headset. She makes us work, hard. She reveals tidbits about herself, her life, favorite bands, people, TV, etc. She's always smiling.
L. I've only met once. She seemed more genuine than R and more down to business. She also knew her "flock" but welcomed new folks, encouraging them to stay on the path of wellness. She spoke easily but with purpose. I liked her class, and she took the time to come visit with me prior to spin and helped me set up my bike, pulling the straps of my pedals tight.
D. is my pastor. It was the first spin class I took and remains the hardest. Not sure if it is because I try harder in it, or because the music he plays (I really do try to keep up with the music). There's not a lot of talk or chit chat except that commands spoken rather forcefully. Though he obviously knows the Back Row of the class well (most of us attend his church) he keeps the personal interaction to a minimum.
And finally, M. This is where I realized that I now attend a new church. Surprisingly, it wasn't in my pastor's class. Today I was welcomed by M, and the gathering began. Much like my "real" church, folks staggered in late, but it began on time. The music all had a theme and a message, and the speaker/instructor was quite motivational, talking about ways to change our life, based on the song playing. She told us that we are control of our lives, and every decision and choice we make counts, so choose wisely. She encouraged us to believe in ourself, think positively and be open to opportunities in life. She told us we were empowered and could do anything, be anything we wanted. We just had to follow through with our choices. We can change the world through changing ourselves. She even told us how to do that, by little steps that will result in big changes, focusing on our purpose in life and our own importance.
Then we stretched, found our center, and filed out to go home. (or the treadmill)
What do I look for in church? Community? I can get that at the gym. Purpose? Well, if my purpose is myself, I can also get that by working out at the gym. Helping and changing the world? My gym, with the other locations, collected over 2,500 running shoes and is sending them to people in need in India and Guatemala. A great, life-changing inspiring message? I can easily get that at the gym. Friendships? Gym. And God? Well, I'm told you can find God anywhere.
Now, before you think that I'm serious, let me tell you that the reason I love my real church so much, (not the gym) is because It is so much more than what I mentioned here. I love my church because it is so different than my gym experience. The songs are not so much inspirational, as much as they are centered around the magnificence of God our Creator. The message my pastor prepares is definitely "relevant' and "life applicable" but it also is centered on what Christ has already done for us, and our response to that is life changing and transformational. No "7 easy steps" to achievement,... more like an act of surrender.
The community I have at my church is growing. We're all so different and yet the common bond of loving Jesus is strong. I have certain folks I spend more time with than others. I have friendships at church but that's not the reason I go to church.
I love my church because it loves God and shows us how to love God. Not just by songs or teaching.... it shows me how to love God by loving others. Both inside and outside of the churchs' walls. And it is not easy for me to love others, but the more I learn and grow and be around others, the more I see Christ in them. I love my church because my church honors God in its purpose.
Purpose. It's not all about me. I think it is. At the gym, it seems to be. But I love that my church's purpose is to glorify God and helps me to glorify God too.