My name is John and I am a recovering church addict.
Those are words that seem inappropriate. After all, church is a super important part of my life and I want to keep it that way.
I have seen my life without church and I never want to go back to that.
But for 32 years, I did not set foot in a church building except for an occasional funeral. I had grown up in church but, like many, once I reached adulthood I walked away. I had some great explanations for doing so, yet I lived life knowing there was something important missing.
That changed dramatically about thirteen years ago.
After a brutal three-day confrontation with God, I ended up at church one Sunday morning trying desperately to get him off my back. I did not want to be there. I turned my car around three times on the way there, yet somehow I finally ended up walking through that door.
It seems ludicrous to me now, but that was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I survived the service and escaped back to my car . . .
but Jesus was waiting for me there.
There was no more room to run.
There was no more time for excuses.
It was decision time. I could either accept Jesus into my life or blatantly reject him. There was no longer room for any middle ground. Thankfully, I made the right decision and accepted Jesus right there in that parking lot.
From that moment on, I loved everything church. I made every effort to never miss a service. I tried to participate in every activity made available. If the doors were open, I was there. In fact, I ended up with a set of keys and was often there even when the doors were not open!
I came to love the people of my church truly like family. My world revolved around church and my identity became dominated by trying to be a model church member and an overachieving servant. Those were all good things and those were good times. I enjoyed every minute of it. I really did become addicted to church and I don’t regret that at all.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that somewhere along the way, my love for and relationship with the church began to overshadow my love for and relationship with Jesus. My identity with the church began to compete with my identity in Christ.
When my relationship with that church ended, a feeling of lostness and bitterness unintentionally hindered my closeness and service to the Lord.
I became more obsessed with what I had lost than in what God had in store for me. I could not envision any church in our new city living up to “my first love” so I chose to attend but remain unengaged. I truly suffered through the agony of withdrawal.
In recent weeks, God has re-emphasized to me that the focal point must always be on Christ himself. The church exists only because of Jesus – not the other way around. Christ is the object of our devotion and the church exists in a supporting role to express and work out that devotion. We love and serve our churches because of our love and service for Jesus.
Church is important, but we must keep it in perspective. It is a means to an end – not the end itself. Jesus alone is the beginning and the end. Everything else falls somewhere in between.
So take it from a recovering church addict. Don’t let the fondness for your church nor the activities of your church crowd out the object of church. It’s all about Jesus!
It is entirely possible to have a strong loving relationship with church and yet miss the Savior.
That would be a tremendous tragedy. My prayer is that you would find both relationships and always be able to tell the difference.
And that would be a tremendous treasure.