I love church. I absolutely love it. I love going to church. I love worshiping in church. I love singing along with the praise and worship music in church. I love hearing a solid sermon. And I love leaving church feeling like I was bathed in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Church is not the only place that this happens for me, but I do so love it.
This is a complete turnaround for me, considering that I stopped going to church regularly the minute I turned 18 years old, then spent a good chunk of my 20s only visiting occasionally. Eventually, I began to feel spiritually parched and, not knowing what else to do, I returned to church and breathed a sigh of relief.
I haven’t been to church since I left Jamaica back in January and I’ve missed it. There was hardly a church to be found in Aceh, plus they occasionally have religious unrest there so I admit that I didn’t look for one too hard. When I got to Jakarta, I Googled churches but couldn’t find one with services conducted in English anywhere that was reasonably close to me (given the size of Jakarta, that means under 1 hour commuting from 1 area of the city to another). So I’ve continued to do what I’ve been doing since January: pastoring myself.
My typical day begins with me studying my bible and writing my first conversation of the day with God in my prayer journal; this is usually about any concerns I have on my heart or any hopes I have for the day or any person I have on my mind. Then I listen to at least 1 podcast sermon from Joyce Meyer or from Victory World Church or from Joel Osteen (usually when I need a motivational talk). As I’m working on my laptop throughout the day, I have my earphones in and I have YouTube up playing gospel music or Priscilla Shirer or Toure Roberts preaching in the background. Unless I’m on my days off where I’m out exploring some place, there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not constantly surrounding myself with the word of God in some way. This isn’t because I’m super spiritual. It’s because I need it – it’s comforting to me and it keeps me grounded and focussed on what’s important.
These habits that I’ve developed have kept me distracted from the lack of actual churchgoing in my current life, but I’ve still missed it. So imagine my surprise when, on my last visit to his house, The Jamaican told me that he was going to the English language service of a local Catholic church that Sunday afternoon and asked if I wanted to come with him. Yes, please!
Despite having attended a Catholic high-school for 7 years, this was only my second time actually attending a Catholic church service. The first time was with my friend last summer in Toronto. I thought about her almost the entire time I was sitting in that pew in Gereja Santa Theresia in Jakarta Pusat that Sunday. The setup of the church, the flow of the service, everything was so similar to my first experience almost a year ago in Toronto; it was comforting somehow. I sat in St. Theresa’s and thanked God for this unexpected pleasure of worshipping with other believers. Even as the priest delivered his brief homily in his Indonesian-accented English, my mind drifted and I thought about the blessing that I was receiving. The joyful, vociferous, energetic praise and worship that I love to participate in was missing and so was the deeper bible study that I prefer to receive. But I was so happy to be in church that none of that mattered.
Someone I once knew used to scoff at churchgoers and say that we only go to get our weekly Sunday fix. This person said that we go to church and we get our “feel-good”, which lasts us through the week until the next Sunday when we go to top up our dose. At the time, I was not a serious Christian. I was regularly attending church but my life fairly screamed that I wasn’t serious about God. So I had no leg to stand on in an argument about why I and so many other people go to church. Now, I do. I know exactly why I go.
I don’t go to church to get a weekly dose of feel-good, and I don’t go to church to be preached at. I can get all of that without leaving home.
I go to church because there is something wonderfully beautiful and energising about worshipping God with other believers. There’s a releasing of burdens when we’re all singing praises to Him. And even as much as it’s important for me to know and study God’s word for myself, I also want to be taught by someone who is more knowledgeable than me, who is (hopefully, please God, hopefully!) living by His word and not just preaching it.
For me, there’s no question that there’s a sweet anointing in the sanctuary; there were so many times over years of spiritual struggle when being inside a church soothed my struggling soul. I’m so glad that I found it again here in Jakarta.
Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:24-25