My dearest friend,
You had asked me “How do you do it?” while sitting in a busy car with a crying baby.
It wasn’t a question pertaining to my accomplishments but about how I continue to be apart of a church, or the church I should say. With all its flaws and failures, you were looking for an answer as to how I keep being apart of a community in which you find yourself so cynical of. We never got to finish our conversation, so this is my answer to you and to anyone else wondering how I keep going to church.
A quick history bullet point style
- Before high school, church was a forced activity that frankly was quite strange. I once witnessed a woman break down in tears in the middle of her special music to the song
“Have I told you lately” by Rod Stewart.
- In Highschool, I had a pretty wonderful youth group despite my youth pastor being forced to resign due to inappropriate relationships with some of the other students. Yikes!
- In college, that same church split over the worship (as many were doing during that time when we decided that worship was meant to be hip) and I was thrown into the position as worship leader temporarily (unpaid BTW) only to be replaced a man who received a paycheck almost immediately.
- I struggled as a worship leader during my college years in other churches never feeling like anyone took me seriously. I left the Protestant church for a while and attended a sweet Episcopal church and loved it!
- My husband and I were youth pastors during our first few years of being married and were abruptly fired from the church for reaching “rebellious spirited” kids. That is a direct quote from the bullshit letter the pastor wrote us.
- My husband and I bounced around a few churches after being fired (and spending a good amount of time in wine country on Sundays) and landed on now our home church for almost 6 years, Bread & Wine Communities; of which I am now apart of the staff and feel utterly respected as a woman. It’s been a very healing place for us.
The reason for a short history is to simply show my relationship with the church has not been all roses and rainbows. And if I was to share my husband’s history, it would be a lot uglier but I can’t get away from the fact that I am called to the church and frankly, so are you. So without further ado, this is how I do it?
I believe God’s Word
God created the church. Not man. The church was created by God for us to display God’s love in the world. Regardless of how flawed it might be it is also incredibly powerful and loving and functional. People are still being called into relationship with Christ through the Gospel being preached by the church today. For me, the Word does not allow us to opt out of community because we have issues with the preaching or worship unless they are preaching something other than the Gospel. I show up and stay connected to the body because God’s Word calls me to. It’s that simple to me. We are called into an obedient life and not a comfortable one.
I learned healthy boundaries
My favorite definition of boundaries is by Brene Brene:
What’s okay and what’s not okay.
Christians let a lot of things slide in community for the sake of grace. Well, I have learned that most of what we let slide isn’t grace at all, it’s ignorance. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that our faith alone fixes the problem but if we are honest with ourselves, we just don’t want to get our hands dirty. True discipleship costs us and many of us are not willing to pay the price. Another quote from Brene Brown that has been tremendously helpful in drawing boundaries: Choose discomfort over resentment. I have learned it is better to be uncomfortable for 20 minutes than to be resentful for 6 months. Drawing boundaries is uncomfortable, telling people in our community that our feelings are hurt or that we don’t agree is extremely uncomfortable but what else is there? Bury our hurt and frustration for the sake of grace?! No, we learn how to draw healthy boundaries and communicate them with grace. I am so passionate about this, I wrote a whole blog on boundaries: How to be less nice but more loving
Because I love God, I love His people
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21
The word brother in the greek being used here in 1 John literally means “member of the same religious community, especially a fellow Christian”. I am convinced that we cannot grow in our love for God apart from loving our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and we cannot love our brothers and sisters if we have written off the church. And I mean the gathering body of believers just not the one or two friends who call themselves Christian. I realize and very much preach that church doesn’t happen in a building but if that’s where God’s people gather, so should we.
I see the church (and all it’s brokenness)
I can’t deny that the current state of the church is divided and very much broken in many ways especially here in America. I won’t deny that the church has a history of abuse both spiritually and physically. The church is made of broken people who do some really stupid shit sometimes. And it makes me a little sick to think about how we have treated other communities from the Mormons to the LGBTQ community. I absolutely see this and I am not turning a blind eye to it. However, I am also a broken person who has hurt and ignored people even now in my current position, and I have had to apologize for my lack of care. Brokenness is not an excuse it’s simply a state of reality for many but we have to see the brokenness before we can heal it. I can’t ignore the fact that we worship a God that while hanging from the cross said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness is not some weak gesture that allows us to gloss over a multitude of sins, it’s the power of God for the salvation of the world. Christ is and will forever be the head of the church, brokenness and all, who am I to question His plan for the salvation of the world? The church is so much more than what our finite eyes can see and our frail hands can touch. So I have to ask, do we trust God to take care of His church? Even more, do we trust God to be apart of it?
I need to hear the Gospel (on a regular basis)
Lastly, I keep going to church because I need to hear the Gospel over and over again. I need to hear that God is in control and not me. I need to hear that God loves me and wants me to be a healed and whole person. My soul needs communion, the bread, and the wine to remind me of Christ’s broken body FOR ME. I need to hear the voices of others singing alongside me to remind my soul I am not alone. I need to hear the faith of others. I need to keep my heart in check by putting a check in the offering plate. I need to allow people to love me and comfort me so that I can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). My soul needs to hear the Gospel on a regular basis regardless of how well it’s preached. My soul doesn’t need it to be fancy or hip, it just needs to be reminded of the truth.
There are so many more ways of how I keep going to church and being a part of this community but these are the main ones. You may have your own and I would love to hear them. Comment below with the reasons you keep going to church or tell us why you find it difficult. Let’s get uncomfortable!
Your loving and flawed sister in Christ,