Church: I Don't Get It

You walk into a group of new friends just in time to
overhear an “inside joke.”

Chances are, you’ll laugh cautiously, indexing your reaction
to what you see on the faces of the “insiders.” It would take a stoke of
uncharacteristic boldness (for most people) to blurt out, “I don’t get it. Explain it to me.”

And so we go on, not getting it.

It is possible that people walking into church feel the same
way about the Bible, or church customs?

That is, are people smiling and nodding, perhaps even singing along to
the praise team, all the while thinking, “I don’t get it?”

If you’re attending worship every Sunday, or opening the
Bible regularly, maybe your attitude is, “I wish I could get it!”

After awhile, you learn the right phrases to use at the
right times, and you’re magically assigned “insider” status by others in the
group. (I recall a 1980’s movie about a
clueless girl in Washington D.C., trying to fit in. She memorized ten smart-sounding phrases to
use at parties, and people thought she was a political guru.)

Perhaps that describes you, at church. There’s a lot you don’t “get.” But something keeps you interested; you know
God has a purpose for you. You’re ready
to get to know him personally, to know what the Bible means for you, and you
just don’t know where to begin. Here are
a few ideas:

1. Don’t try to be an insider. Chances are, all those people you think are
insiders are not all that different from you. Be bold. Ask, “I’m really not
sure how this part of the Bible is supposed to apply to my life. What should I
do?” or even, “What exactly does this custom mean?” Even Jesus’ disciples went up to the Lord,
after a particularly confusing parable, and said, “Master, what in the world
are you talking about?” (See Matthew 13) If the apostle Peter needed some clarification occasionally, I probably
will too.

2. Look for “beginner” or “introductory” learning
Many churches offer their
version of “Faith 101” or the Alpha course, or some sort of New Members’ class. Many common questions are answered in these
contexts. Some other ideas?  Ask  Christian
friends for some good “introduction” books to the Bible or to Christianity (I
always recommend Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life,” or, if you’re an
academic, John Stott’s “Basic Christianity”).  I remember my dad’s way of catching up on many
lost years of Sunday school. Having no
church background, when he became a Christian in his forties he didn’t know
anything about the famous Bible stories (David and Goliath, Noah and the Ark, etc.). He got a hold of book with “365 Bible
Stories,” illustrated for children!

3. Faithfully
participate in the basics.
Just like
anything else in life, good things take time. Build these four key elements in your weekly schedule: a worship
service, a small group discussion Bible study, volunteering to serve others and
regular time to learn from the Bible. Not only will you gain friends, joy, and feel like you’re making a
difference, you’ll get to know God as well. Over the long term, you’ll notice that you’re growing in knowledge, in faith,
and in prayer.

Don’t let the so-called insiders intimidate you. Some are fakes, granted. But I suspect that most are just average
people, like you, who yearn to be closer to God. Begin spending time with some of them, adopt
the three principles outlined above, and your life will begin to change. The Bible will start to come alive.

You’ll get it.



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