I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a very hard time connecting with church. Most Christians go through this at one time or another, I think, at least on some level. It’s difficult to be in a season of disconnection when your husband is a pastor. It’s hard to be honest about my struggles, my concerns and my questions – oh I always have so many questions. Sometimes those questions aren’t well received so most often I bottle them up, until I’m suddenly flinging them at my husband like a volley of mini-grenades in moments for which he is ill prepared.
What can I say? I am highly imperfect.
Lately, I’ve felt a bit…stuck between my obligations to church, the institution, and my desire to engage with gospel living, the practice. A recent spiritual types test confirmed that I am a ‘do-er’ (in fancy words, I’m a speculative-apophatic ) which means my highest level of connection with God is when I’m in a hands on situation, and because I am also a thinker, I work out issues by questioning and testing. There isn’t room for much of either of this type of engagement in a traditional church service which can leave me feeling dry and restless in a room full of people who, at least on the surface, seem at home and plugged in.
The solution, I am finding, is not to abandon church in search of something “better” but to broaden my definition. I know we Christians are always saying “Church isn’t the building it’s the people.” But our lives don’t always reflect this if we limit our church experience to an hour every Sunday. Rather than a prescribed set of events – welcome, three songs, communion, message – I’m finding church is more about people living the way of the Kingdom every day and sharing our experiences with each other. These new eyes are allowing me to see I am part of little churches everywhere as well as the church universal.
When we take Church out of the small box where we’ve kept it, we find a vibrant, beautiful, growing, organic, messy, creative organism with more ways to connect than our imaginations can construct.
When a group of us meet together to talk about books, and kids and what it means to really live like Jesus. When we work together in broken communities or Ronald McDonald House, when we take care of each other by cleaning houses, making meals, sharing time, we are being church, even if none of us is ordained.
When a group of us paints faces, and installs duct work, and gives away books to eager faced children. When we hug and laugh and break bread that surrounds a hot dog together, when the cup holds lemon aid instead of wine, we are being church.
When a group of flawed, crazy women, come together around our computer screens from around the globe, to pray for each other, to share our fears and our dreams, to hold out our disappointments knowing we’ll be handled gently, when we talk about words, and work and details, we are being church.
And yes, when a few hundred of us gather in a room where the music plays loudly and trays of bread with tiny cups of grape juice are passed, when a message is given and heads bow low, we are being church.
Whether we kneel by the alter or the graveside, or gather on Thursday afternoon or Sunday morning, whether we acknowledge our identity or ignore our calling, we are being church with our lives, for we can be no other once we are aligned with the family of God.
I’m not trying to say when we find ourselves feeling distant and disengaged the problem is never the community we keep, but I do believe that often the first place we should focus when we are feeling this way, is on ourselves. We are fickle and constantly changing as individuals and people groups. If the church swayed and catered to our every whim, it would be the most unstable structure in the history of mankind. God’s Church doesn’t limit us, but our understanding of who we are and how we live in the world certainly can. Our understanding of Church can allow us to die of thirst even while we’re swimming in water far over our heads. Instead of waiting for a weekly meeting time to find our place to connect, we can engage in little churches everywhere finding beauty, hope and connection in every day and every place we inhabit.
One church can never fit all our individual needs, but we serve One who can, and He is found wherever we have eyes to see him, in little churches everywhere, making every step we walk fall upon holy ground.
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