The first time I ever went to church (10 years ago)

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For a long time, I had considered going to church. As someone who had never gone before, religion fascinated me. As someone who was always a thinker, I always believed that there just had to be something out there. We had to have come from some sort of Surpeme Being.

For part of high school, I had made a deal with myself that I’d start going “when I got older.” At least when I had a car, and could take myself.

Then, one week as a senior in high school, it dawned on me, “I have a car.” And I decided to go that Sunday. That first church service was ten years ago this weekend (February 29, 2004).

The year before, I had taken a humanities class where we spent a quarter of the year talking about the various world religions. I wanted answers. I wanted to know what was true. I was in a group that ended up getting B’ahaism (which I was pretty sure wasn’t true). I pretty much wrote off the eastern religions, because I questioned “if reincarnation were real, how are there so many more people now than there used to be?”

Before you argue that logic, let’s just remember that I was 17.

Judaism really resonated with me. As we read sections of the Old Testament, the idea of A God made sense, the idea of one divine entity who created people and who was loving made sense.

When we got to Christianity, I felt that this Jesus guy unnecessarily complicated things. The idea of God made sense. The idea of some guy with a beard, for someone who had never really heard about him before, did not.

But after continuing to think about these things, and be interested in religion, that February day I decided to go to church. Even though I liked Judaism, in the year which had past, I had warmed up a bit to the idea of Christianity. And considering that there wasn’t a huge Jewish population in Columbus, I decided to start going to actual churches. My plan was to visit all kinds of different churches, and really seek things out.

The first church I visited was, logically, the closest church to my house. A Presbyterian Church. The people were friendly, and the church had just begun a series going through the book The Purpose Driven Life. I didn’t know anything about church. For most of the first year, I wore a dress shirt and tie to church every week, because I thought that’s what people who went to church did (although I was actually going to a pretty contemporary church where most of the guys didn’t dress like that, especially teenagers!)

I continued going to that church, but most Sundays, I’d go to services at two different churches: the Presbyterian Church and another church. In the first year, I visited over 20 churches, everything from Catholic, to Methodist, Mormon Quaker, the Vineyard, and Episcopalian.
 
I’d say it was within those first few weeks that faith became real to me. In the last ten years, it’s seemed so real and beautiful to me. At other times, it’s seemed distant. I think everyone of faith has times like that. In college, I definitely had a phase where being popular became a bigger priority, but I never stopped believing. The gospel is a message that we sin, and that our sin separates us from God, but that God made away for us to be redeemed by coming to earth and living the life we could not live and dying the death we should have died for our sins, but that he did that for us, for our forgiveness. For that message, once it’s truly impacted someone’s heart and resonated in their life, I don’t believe it’s possible to stop believing it. I don’t think there’s any going back once you’ve understood the message of Jesus. 
 
But we live in a world where their is still sin, and disease, and where we get frustrated. One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is Philippians 1:6 where it says “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” That gives me hope. 
 
So I conclude by asking you to ask yourself the question that was on my mind ten years ago.
 
What do I believe is true? 
 
Back then (and still today), I believed that faith must be the most important thing in the universe, or be totally irrelevant. If God is real, I believed that faith had to be of greater importance than anything else in our lives could ever be. And if there were no God, that faith was irrelevant. But what I couldn’t do was acknowledge that I believed in a personal God, but then try to live as though my faith in him didn’t matter at all. Logically, that seems disconnected to me. To say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian,” but then to never go to church, or read the Bible, or pray. 
 
What do you believe is true? I believe it’s a question we should all ask. 
 
jrb

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