How to Walk Into Church by Tony Payne
*A quick note about Christian books before I begin: I’ve mentioned several times on the blog that I have a backlog of Christian books I want to read, and that I’m hoping Books by the Window will encourage me to start making my way through them. However, reading a Christian book takes longer than a fiction book: I want to make sure I am not just reading these books but applying them to my life. As a result, I won’t be posting about my Christian reading as regularly as the rest of my reading, and I don’t want to put myself under too much pressure to schedule when I will upload these posts. But hopefully this will be helpful and encouraging to those who wish to read; it was certainly helpful for me personally to write down how this book had challenged me!
Over the summer, my church family was reading a short book called How to Walk Into Church, with the intention that we would be able to discuss it together as we prepared to move to two Sunday morning meetings. I have many excuses for why I missed the fact that we were reading this book, probably none of which are adequate, but somehow I managed to remain oblivious. This was something I really regretted when we came to discuss it together at our monthly prayer meeting, as it sounded as though most people had been very challenged and encouraged by the book, and now having read it myself, I wish I had been able to properly join in that discussion.
There was a big temptation for me, on beginning this book, to skim through quickly without taking much in. Firstly, it is not a long book: it is in fact from a series by Matthias Media called ‘Brief Books’ and thus does not take long to read. Secondly, I have the privilege of being part of a church family where we are faithfully taught and reminded about the purpose and joy of coming to church, and challenged about our attitudes as we walk in on Sunday mornings. From beginning to conclusion, there was not much ‘new’ information for me. But ‘new’ does not necessarily make a good Christian book and, as I continued to read and think through what I was reading, I realised that this attitude I was taking was both arrogant and lazy. I needed this reminder of what it means to be someone who is encouraging and building up my church family; in fact, I probably need more regular reminders about it. How easily we forget what we are doing when we walk into church!
Payne divides his book up well, making sure to lay the theological foundation of church as well as its purpose before moving on to the application. The two chapters which outline the theological aspect of church, entitled ‘What is this thing we call ‘church’?’ and ‘Why am I walking into church?’, are rooted firmly in God’s Word: Payne uses the book of Hebrews to explain what is actually going on when we walk in and meet together as a church family. The passages he uses are clear and helpful in moving the reader forward in their understanding of church, and this Biblical grounding is crucial for giving motive behind the application. Changing our attitude to church is not simply about the way we walk in, it is about truly understanding what church is and why it is so important for us to be there.
The application chapters are equally clear, with simple yet challenging advice for how we should be walking into church. Payne divides the application into three: how this theological grounding affects our thoughts and behaviours before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting. Personally, I found these chapters a great reminder of the encouragement we can be to each other throughout the Sunday morning meetings. Recently, I think I have let this slip under the excuse of ‘tiredness’ or ‘busyness’; it is fitting that now I am being reminded of the really simple ways I can be encouraging my church family in my attitude to church.
All in all, I’m glad that I did read this book in the end, even if it was later than I was supposed to. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who goes to church, whether you have been going for many years or are a relatively new Christian. It is a great introduction to what church is, and a great reminder of why it is so exciting as each member plays a role in supporting and encouraging each other in the Christian life. Its briefness does not mean a lack of depth, and its use of clear, simple language makes it suitable for almost anyone to read.