I won’t lie, I have always kind of liked church. As a child, I went to Roman Catholic church a lot with my school or with my parents. I liked the singing and the smell of the incense, I liked the ritual of knowing what to do or say during Mass and when. It always felt like I was doing something right for God. But, in all my doing, I still didn’t feel that I was good enough for God. The only real effect would be a (wrongful) sense of pride that I had been to church, and even the memories and thoughts of having been there were fleeting. It was only later, when I was in bed at night, perhaps trying to pray to God, that I really faced how far I was from Him and I questioned how I would ever be good enough for Him.
This feeling continued with increasing regularity into my late teens and early twenties. To know that I ultimately would face the judgement of God filled with me a feeling of true dread.
When I first visited a Bible-preaching evangelical church in Leeds at the invitation of a friend, I was very surprised by what it was like. The informality was something of a culture shock! Gone was the ritualistic nature of the Masses I was used to. These services were gentler and more easy-going in a lot of ways, but the Christians in attendance in no way lacked reverence. On the contrary, worshipping God and hearing from the Bible were at the centre of everything. Even outside of Sunday services, the members of the church built their lives around loving God.
There was an overarching message the church wanted to share from the Bible: Jesus died on the cross so that anyone who believed in Him would be saved from their sins. This salvation is a gift freely given by God. We don’t deserve it, there is nothing we can ever do to deserve it, but we can accept it and be completely forgiven by God for all the times we have turned away from Him.
Not long after I first visited the church, I became a Christian through this free gift of salvation by grace. At my baptism, I quoted Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.’ Since experiencing this saving grace, I have not feared God’s judgement of my life. Instead, I know peace and hope. I’m certain that I will be with God for all of eternity because Jesus died for me.
My current church, Grace Church Wakefield, is similar to and has the same priorities as the church I first attended and later joined in Leeds (I moved to Wakefield for work a few years ago). At Grace Church, we are committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible. This commitment comes from a love for God - even though it won’t change our standing with God, we want to obey Him and please Him - as well as a love for others, ‘I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’, Luke 15:17
How could we know the amazing truth of salvation from God and not want to share it with others?
I no longer go to church because I think it will make me right with God, I go to church because God made me right with Him! I am reminded of what God has done for me in Romans 5:8, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’
There is nowhere I’d rather be on a Sunday morning than worshipping God, praying to God and learning about God with my Christian brothers and sisters. It’s more than that too, church isn’t just a Sunday service, it’s a family of believers wanting to further God’s kingdom, which is a full-time commitment:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Colossians 3:16 I love being part of a church where God’s people encourage one another in the faith and seek to share the message of salvation in so many ways with people who aren’t yet Christians. It is a message which changed my life and my eternity, as well as that of all the Christians who make up Grace Church Wakefield.
If you are at all interested in learning more about the good news of Jesus, please do get in touch with us and/or perhaps join us one Sunday morning. We would love to welcome you! You may just hear something that will change your life for the better...
This post is written by Stephanie Gall, a partner at GCW.