Charles Dickens’s classic novel A Tale of Two Cities opens with the words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us ….” I’ve always loved church, but there was a time when that depiction of extremes fairly well defined my experience of church—in my case, it would have been called “A Tale of Two Churches.”
The first church had a feeling of true holiness to it. The welcome among members was so much more than happy smiles and handshakes. There was real joy and support, and an energy that made people feel they were working together to bring Christian healing to their own lives and to the community. The prayer in the services was powerful and far-reaching. The sermon lifted us. Quite simply, we felt God there, and we wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
But the other church felt, for lack of a better word, mechanical. Members were preoccupied and burdened with church duties, going through the motions of church rather than actually loving God and each other. The few members there made me wonder how much longer this church could stay open. I would leave those services feeling discouraged and low.