“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT
We didn’t go to church today. Actually, we haven’t been to church in a month. A series of events have played into this. First, we’re back to visiting churches, and have found ourselves in a very discouraging season. More on that in a moment. Then we got baby E, very early, on a Sunday morning. Then we went to Florida to celebrate the life of Jason’s sweet grandmother who passed away. And for the last 2 weeks we have had every intention of going and didn’t.
Most of you know I grew up in my daddy’s church. From age 4 to 25 I went to one church with my family and a congregation that became like family. I had friends, I had mentors, I had pseudo grandparents. I was involved in youth, went to camp and on mission trips. I was corrected and confronted about everything, from driving with my brother at 14 without a license, to wearing too low cut of shirts. I couldn’t get away with anything without someone seeing, which I realize now was a blessing, though it irritated me at the age of 16. But I always loved my church. Always. I never wanted to escape it. Even then as an immature adolescent. It was my second home, my extended family. As I grew up and matured as a Christian I began to appreciate First Baptist Lutz all the more. It’s not perfect but it’s seeking to take the gospel to all nations through various forms of ministry. Being apart of that church has helped me understand what the body of Christ should look like.
Moving to Georgia has rocked me in this area. We have struggled for 7 years to feel really connected to any church. And not just feel connected but witness the power of the Holy Spirit, alive and active within the congregation. Moving to the country, especially, has made it an even greater challenge. I don’t mean to knock on churches but we’ve been to too many where it feels more like a Christian version of a country club. Meeting on Sunday’s, preaching out of the Bible and singing Christian music doesn’t make the church truly alive in Christ. I have left churches in tears simply from feeling unwelcome and like an “outsider”. Feeling like these Christians, who don’t know me at all, could care less about the state of my soul. That’s a horrible, scary observation.
For awhile we attended a newer church, but after a couple years we felt it was simply stagnant. Through a lot of prayer and agonizing over what to do we left.
Once again, we were confronted with “What is the churches purpose?” In short, the purpose of the church is to come together, encourage, admonish and equip one another through the teaching of the Bible, prayer, and singing Psalms and spiritual songs. Then we effectively scatter through out the week taking the gospel into our community and beyond. Disciples making disciples. Essentially, one would think, you would start seeing growth and life change in the church as a byproduct of people being reached with the gospel of Jesus. Additionally, the church would engage in outreach together to further the gospel and love people like Christ loves us. (A few passages to support that description. Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:42-47, Acts 6:7, Colossians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 8:1-2)
So, we started visiting again. I was very frustrated and disappointed with our seeming unfaithfulness to a church body. That’s how it felt. I didn’t want to “church hop”. That was not my paradigm. We connected with another local church and the pastor very quickly. He was somewhat new to the area. He seemed like a strong leader, ready to pour everything he had into the community and commission us, his congregants to do the same. It seemed as though he understood the Bible and how it described the church as we did. We were excited and all in.
He was not what he seemed. We suffered a great loss under his leadership. He was let go. We were devastated. We were left with a broken, hurt, unhealthy church that we had really just started attending. We tried to hang in there. Maybe not hard enough, I don’t know. But we began visiting again.
And here we are. Visiting. With no church “home”. I’m becoming so frustrated by our situation that when Sunday rolls around it’s tempting to just want to stay home. In fact this morning I even thought “ugh, it’s raining. I don’t want to go out in that.” Never in my life has rain kept me from wanting to worship with the body of Christ. I can’t even describe how sad this makes me. Sad because I can see its effects on us spiritually. Because I’m not foolish enough to think it has no effect. It totally does. Sad because this is not what I want for my children. So yes, it pains me. Praise God it does. What a mercy from the Holy Spirit because I do not ever want to give up on the body of Christ. I do love the church. I don’t know why we’re struggling here. I’m starting to wonder if it’s us! I know we are not perfect, nor are all our desires and ideas, and I know there is no perfect church.
What we want is to be connected with authentic Christians that love God passionately, are rooted in his Word and with all their might want to live it out. And for some reason in this “Bible Belt” small town we haven’t quite found that. Fortunately I know this whole experience is not meaningless. I have a different perspective now. Mainly, I have compassion for people who are visiting, who have been hurt by the church and the ones who have faded out of church completely, and sadly a lot of people in this area have. All in all it’s been a very humbling season, which I can ALWAYS use humbling. 🙂
Maybe you’re like me. Can I just encourage you, don’t give up on the church!! Just keep going. Keep praying for God to lead you to the right body of Christ. Keep praying the church in America would have an awakening. But don’t give up and stay home. We were never meant to be lone Christians. And yes, I know we have our brothers and sisters in Christ all over and outside our local church and thank God for that. I have needed them so much to spur me on to not give up meeting with my local family in Christ. God means to work through the body of Christ, the local church. Your local church. My local church. Christ loves the church, it’s His bride. We’re called to love like Christ, so we too must love the church and never ever give up on her.