In 2003 our family was serving in a small pioneer church. And when I say serve, I mean serve! We sang on the worship team, helped with sound, worked in the nursery, Bruce was on the elder board, we came when the doors opened and often stayed until they closed. We started a small and intense parenting class. We loved the pastor and the people and were thrilled to serve in all these capacities. Being distant from our natural families, church was our family so we participated eagerly.
For a time the pastor loved Bruce like a brother
Toward the spring of that year we began to experience some personal upheavals. Bruce was was wrestling with work and I encouraged him to seek professional help. It led to 10 wks in an intensive program for clinical depression. We went to our pastor and asked for some time off, particularly the summer months, so that we could recuperate. Because of our deep involvement, complete withdrawal was the only thing we knew would bring rest. Our pastor was supportive, asking if we needed anything from the church then gave us his blessing.
Through a series of meetings and some pioneer church growing pains, we came to a decision to leave the church in September. It simply wasn’t a good fit for us at that time in our lives. We had peace and plans to eventually find a new church but continuing to rest from all we’d gone through that year was primary.
Little did we know it would be 12 years before we found another home church!
We had a community of believers in our lives through our homeschool group, but it felt like a part of us died because we didn’t have a church family. During these years God graciously brought people to us that we could serve. We hosted a mom and her 3 boys for Lent one year, what an experience! We were blessed to take in an 18 yr old girl for almost 2 years. She became our 3rd daughter. Sometimes we visited churches hoping to find the right fit but were discouraged. It seemed that churches were more interested in programs than God’s presence, something that was non negotiable for us. Bruce’s mantra:
“Just don’t waste my time”
He felt his time was his most valuable commodity and if church was going to waste it by not welcoming God’s presence, he had other things to do. Especially when we were busy working, launching two young adults and scrambling to keep ourselves sane.
Interestingly, we found ourselves climbing out from under our sub-cultural church rock. It changed us, especially our language. We reached for words to describe our faith that had no Christianease attached to them. Our eyes opened to things we didn’t see when we were deeply invested in serving. We never abandoned our faith but we explored ideas not always found in evangelical churches. It challenged some of our long held beliefs.
Viewing the local church from the eyes of non church people was educational. Most were outwardly respectful of Christians. Many were churched just enough to be inoculated. When we had one of my co-workers to dinner, Bruce thanked the Lord for her presence at our table and she was incredibly moved. Didn’t change her views about Christianity or church one bit though!
Respectful but unmoved was a theme among non church people
Throughout this season we worked, homeschooled, sent our daughters to college and married one of them off, (your children can find Christian spouses outside of church, especially when they do everything online). We lived our faith, followed God’s voice and obeyed as he directed. Many a significant conversation was held over a meal at our table.
Our circle of friends widened to include many who didn’t share our faith or the version of it we lived all our lives. We grew to love these people as much as we’d ever loved the ones in our churches. Graduation ceremonies and parties, a wedding shower, birthdays and anniversaries all celebrated with gusto. The house was comfortably filled with the activities of life. Always, in the back of our minds, was the thought that this was temporary. Eventually we would find a church. It’s just what Christians do,
But time marched on…
As the years passed I saw how God was changing something fundamental in me. I knew that church attendance wasn’t necessarily an indicator of real faith. I also knew that non attendance wasn’t necessarily an indicator of absent faith. I found myself facing an unexpected streak of superstition hiding in my spiritual backpack. Will I go to hell if I don’t attend church? Will my kids be saved if we don’t take them? If we don’t tithe will we go bankrupt? Over time these fears dissipated. I grew to know, that my faith was based only on God’s incredible love for me and my utter dependence on him. To have that knowledge abiding deeply in your soul is a powerful weapon in your spiritual arsenal. It makes your spiritual roots reach deep and what grows above ground is,
We’re transitioning to a new season in life and I’m thrilled to say it includes a church for us. We’re excited to see where it takes us and eager to participate in whatever way God sees fit. There are gobs of young adults–GOBS. I feel like we’re on the brink of a “promised land” experience in our lives. The grapes are enormous and the land looks rich. The desert has been hot, dry, dusty and I’m tired of manna. It’s also been filled with lessons that I never would have chosen to learn, but they changed me and for that I am thankful.
After all, The Church has no building, location, sound system, choir or youth group. I think Paul said it best…
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
May you dig your roots deep and plant yourself firmly in,