I've been asked many times by friends and co-workers about City Chapel. The questions come in all the usual shapes and sizes. What denomination is your church? Where do you guys meet? How many people come on Sundays? Typically generic and perfectly fine questions to ask. They're icebreaker questions, good enough to have general information, but not deep enough to feel like we're prying. I've found that it's also a status thing, as in, "You tell me where you go to church, and I'll decide if my church measures up" type of thing. It's West Michigan, so it's basically expected that you attend church somewhere on Sundays, if even you really aren't all that into it.
The question I don't get asked very often is, why? Why City Chapel? Why, of all the churches in West Michigan, would your family choose to be involved there? Why is your church different?
Honestly, I'm not sure how different it is. It's not a competition. City Chapel isn't better than other churches. I've been part of a church culture that measured itself by putting other churches down. It's quite bizarre. That's not what this church is about. I'm curious though, as to why I'm not asked, “Why City Chapel?” more often. I wonder why I don't ask others why they chose their church. Maybe we don't always know why we go to church, or maybe we don't want to give an answer in response.
I'll be honest here, I don't really consider myself a "church" person. Not really anymore, at least. I grew up going to every church function possible. If the church doors were open, you can bet that my parents would be there and I undoubtedly would be tagging along. Surprisingly even to myself, I worked at a church for five years. Shoot, I lived on church grounds for multiple years, because the church I worked at owned the apartments next door. Trust me, I know what it's like to be fully absorbed in a church bubble.
To be real, it makes me want to gag when I look back on all of that. Why? Because I did it all for the wrong reasons. I did it because we've bred a culture where if you say you're a Christian, the more doing church you do, the better treasure you'll find in heaven. The more you indoctrinate yourself with worship and preaching, the better off you'll be. We've told ourselves that more church can't hurt. And if done right, church shouldn't hurt.
So, why City Chapel? You know what it is? It's people, it's our community we've built. It's the trust we're developing with each other about who we are and what we're all about. Sunday mornings are great for hearing a good sermon and singing meaningful songs. They're also a great time to recharge and reflect with people you've grown to love and really rely on. We don't do church for simply the highs. We do it because we know there will be lows, sometimes deep lows. We are a young church, less than a year old officially, but we've seen some things already. We've already been hit with job loss, cancer, and death, just to name a few painful life situations. Through all of these, we've walked together, cried together, and in some instances, simply sat together.
Why City Chapel? Because it's a safe space, and it's a dangerous space. Safe because it's a space where we can ask questions and admit our shortcomings and acknowledge that we all need Jesus. Dangerous because we might have to listen to a call God places upon us. Dangerous because it isn't enough simply to come to church on Sunday and check it off the list as a task completed. City Chapel is a community of people who strive to live like Jesus and truly care about each other and the community of Grand Rapids. And, if I’m going to come close to calling myself a “church guy,” it wouldn’t be with any other people than our City Chapel family.
Written by James Gilmore