In most cases, faith is what brings people to church in the first place, and faith is what can help provide answers to whatever church problem you may be facing today.
Faith is at the core of one's being. It's an inner drive strong enough to withstand the challenges brought on by bureaucracy, mismanagement, or even a breach of trust. This is because at its foundation is one's relation to God.
Difficult times can bring you face to face with your Maker. And that's a good thing. Regardless of your religious tradition, God is ready for you. Interestingly enough, communing with God is exactly what can help raise the concept of church to be something people want to be a part of and something they feel supported by.
Communing with God can also guide you to a way to resolve the difficulties or lead you to a path to peace of mind right where you are, or it could impel you to move on to a new place to worship.
I went through a disturbing time when people I deeply loved and respected were firmly taking opposing stands on issues, and I felt I was in the middle of the strife. The severity of the issues didn't come close to those reported in the news these days. But it was very troubling to me.
As I was lamenting the situation to a friend, she pointed out a statement by Mary Baker Eddy Â– the Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist Â– stating that everyone connected with this Church "inevitably love one another with that love wherewith Christ loveth us; a love unselfish, unambitious, impartial, universal, Â– that loves only because it is Love."
She continues, "Moreover, they love their enemies, even those that hate them.... I am seeking and praying for [this love] to inhabit my own heart and to be made manifest in my life. Who will unite with me in this pure purpose, and faithfully struggle till it be accomplished? Let this be our Christian endeavor society, which Christ organizes and blesses" ("Pulpit and Press," pg. 21).
With all my heart I wanted to be part of a "Christian endeavor society." To me, it meant living and acting as an instrument of God's goodness, including having a sincere, pure love for everyone in the church, and knowing that God would enable me to love in this way. This new aspiration raised my expectations for church and enlivened my desire to live and behave as a member of a Christian endeavor society.
It deepened my love and appreciation for my fellow members, whichever side of the issues they were on. It moved me to approach my duties at church with a wider embrace and more sincere love for one another and for the work.
As I did this, I was amazed to see that having this kind of love for one another became more important to me than the issues at hand. I saw the truth in this statement, also by Mrs. Eddy: "When the divine precepts are understood, they unfold the foundation of fellowship, in which one mind is not at war with another, but all have one Spirit, God, one intelligent source, in accordance with the Scriptural command: 'Let this Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus' ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 276).
She was describing the "foundation of fellowship" Â– something I was yearning for Â– by quoting the biblical command that I'd heard for many years but perhaps never understood Â– to let that mind be in me which was also in Christ Jesus (see Phil. 2:5). This statement has grown in meaning as I've tried to put it into practice. A Christian endeavor society would be filled with people committed to having the mind of Christ.
As I went to church with the desire to have that mind, and sensed that I had a tiny approximation of it, everything felt different. Even the room where we held the service looked lighter to me. People seemed happier. I felt loved.
Being in fellowship with others endeavoring to "have that mind" unites people in a deeper, more significant way than sharing the same opinion about an issue. This deeper unity lifts hearts above the fray.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints,
and of the household of God.