Little Churches Everywhere


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.


Dana Portwood
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Dana Portwood

Dana is a writer, book-a-holic, lover of dogs, tattoo addict, wanna be beach bum, hair color-er, a survivor of cancer, over the moon about being 40, and a sold out minimalist. She's madly in love with her husband of twenty years and crazy about (or maybe just crazy) raising three teenage daughters.She believes in the power of Love, the miracle of grace, and the strength of community.
Dana Portwood
Follow Me!

About Dana Portwood

Dana is a pastor’s wife and home schooling mom of three beautiful teens in middle Georgia. She’s passionate about women’s friendships, minimalism and being in the Word. You can find her on the MoJoy Blog (

  • I remember once talking with a very well known childrens minister here in the UK in a workshop. We were talking about kids clubs with kids from non church families and whether you should be aiming to integrate those children into your main church service at some point.
    His response was “WHY, they already have church.”
    He said if you are worshipping with them, teaching them and ‘sending them out’ (i.e. encouraging them to share Jesus with their friends and giving them opportunities to serve), they already HAVE CHURCH!

    • Do you think that it’s harder for us to realize this because we always fall back on the Acts model, which isn’t wrong AT ALL, but doesn’t REALLY look like modern church and was a cultural necessity in the Roman Empire? You would meet more secretly. You would be more inclusive (closed into a building or home) because it wouldn’t be safe to just publicly be the church?
      And now we use the verse about Not stopping meeting together almost as a scare tactic to make people engage in an established community?
      Do you see what I mean about all the questions?

      • yep, more questions than answers, I feel. And most of the answers I come up with don’t sound comfortable to speak aloud in most Christian circles.

  • I struggle. You know this. But I started at a new small church at the beginning of the year, and I felt these feelings that you’ve expressed so beautifully here. The only words I had come up with so far were, “There’s church and then there’s THE CHURCH, which is all of us…” Thank you for this!

    • And both really are important, but neither is the answer alone, nor are they a complete picture of the answer even when combined. God is so very big.

  • I’ve discovered the same. In seasons of disconnection, jumping into service with fellow Christians always helps me to reconnect. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Thanks for rising to the challenge to be honest in your struggle, encouraging others as a result.

    • Thank you for your kind words. There is something very healing about being hands on – and I mean healing for me, even before anyone else is involved.

  • KC

    This is a good reminder for when I am starting to feel some discontent that it may be more to do with the fact that I am not doing enough church and instead just doing my hour a week.

    • While I struggle with idea of “doing enough church” I do know that living the Gospel as a lifestyle instead of hinge-ing everything on a service does help to make me feel more fully in tune.

  • I usually get more from a worship service when I am part of planning it or conducting it. When I run media, you’d think I would feel disconnected because I have to focus on clicking through the lyrics instead of just singing with everyone else, but I find the opposite to be true. I wonder if my spiritual type includes some of the aspects of a “do-er.”

    As always, I relate so well to your church musings.

    • I identified a few years ago that one of my main learning styles is kinaesthetic, I need to move and our church moving from meeting in a converted factory unit that was a big open room, to an old traditional church which at the moment still has wooden pews, has been hard on me.
      I will engage more, learn more, remember more, connect more if I can MOVE and here I can’t, at least for now.

      • Zoe, I am not like that physically, but I think I experience the same feeling of restriction in other ways

    • It’s very difficult to be “behind the curtain” I know you understand.
      I will look and see if the Spiritual types book is loanable. Even if you don’t read the whoe thing, it’s worth taking the test. I’m pretty evenly divided between two types. Though like the Myers-Briggs its a spectrum not a good/ bad situation. We need all the types, thank God.

  • Oh my goodness does this resonate with me! Yes, triple yes! I especially appreciate knowing a pastor’s wife has the courage to express this. Thank you for that! My pastor’s wife is so real like you are, and it really brings fresh understanding of grace and acceptance to all. I recently wrote a book (Not Just on Sundays) about this exact thing…how do we carry Him with us through the rest of our week? That wasn’t meant to be a pitch….just evidence that He wants His children to walk out His Kingdom outside the church doors as much as inside. Blessings to you!

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