Dave and I are looking for a new church.
I haven’t talked about this much on here because…well, because I have this awful sense that it’s bad for us to leave a church, even though I know we have good reasons. They have to do with theology and direction and relationships and distance, and I don’t really want to go into them here (because I’ll harp on them and not talk about this journey).
Looking for a church is hard. It’s not something I know how to do. In some ways, we’re lucky because we need to find one within a particular denomination (Dave works for a denominational Bible college and needs to attend a church of that denomination). At least there are fewer choices that way, and that’s a good thing in LA.
We visited one that we loved, but it’s way too far away for us to really be able to get involved like we’d want to. We visited another that we didn’t like at all. We’ll visit at least a couple more, and then, somehow, we’ll decide.
I struggle with the church. I’m not sure why. I tend to see on the big-picture level, and the church seems so small in light of that. The church is this big bunch of real people that I don’t get to choose, and I don’t resonate with all that many of them. There’s so much crap in the church: pastors get treated poorly, pastors treat their congregations poorly, people treat each other poorly. The church so rarely mirrors God to a broken world. Churches are often so closed to new things (like spiritual formation…I know, it’s not really new, but try telling that to some people…), and I tend to be all about those things. The church feels useless, somehow, like it doesn’t change the world so what’s the point?
I know that my biggest struggles have to do with my own experience of church, though. Over the years, I’ve learned that churches don’t usually love well. Churches try to put you in a box. They love the you that’s in the box and ignore or modify any part of you that’s outside of it. Churches miss Jesus. Churches won’t let you exercise your gifts and instead try to get you to exercise gifts you don’t have. Churches don’t let you change and grow, and become skeptical when you do. Churches are conservative for the sake of being conservative and not because they’ve actually thought about it and think it’s right. They tell you how to know God and then ask painful questions when you don’t find him there.
I’ve so often cut off parts of myself to fit in and get along at church. I’ve tried so hard to be someone I’m not because that’s who the church tells me I’m supposed to be. I even gave up on finding God for a while because I couldn’t see him in my church’s worship and study styles. I thought it was me.
I found a church, once, where I was more at home than I’ve been anywhere else. It still feels like home. But it’s the wrong denomination.
Denominations are another thing about church that doesn’t make sense to me. Sure, there are differences among Christian beliefs. I’ll even go so far as to say that someone is right (or more right) and another is wrong (or more wrong). But most aren’t so wrong that it’s worth breaking communion over.
It feels a bit like a game, right now. We have to find one (like an Easter Egg Hunt). Heaven forbid we let it go too long between churches. We have to go every week. We have to have some participation outside of the Sunday service. We have to care about people just because they go to the same church we do, and we have to support our church financially. We have to at least pretend to believe that this is where we meet God, that these are the people who show God to us. I know all the rules, and I’ve played pretty well over the years.
I read this over and it becomes clear to me that I am very, very broken when it comes to church. Very cynical. Very skeptical. Very angry. Very hurt. I believe in Jesus, but I don’t much believe in the church.
I try to believe in the church. I try to see it as Christ’s bride here on earth. And right now, I can’t. I’m almost positive I’m wrong, but that doesn’t mean I can make it work out any differently in my heart.
I don’t know what to do in this place. I have to find a church. I’d rather stay home, get some good rest, and find some good friends to spend the rest of my Sunday with, but both Dave and I have jobs where being churchless is highly frowned upon. I’m about ready to say, “Screw it!” and pull the covers over my head next Sunday, but I’ll probably be good instead. I’ll get up, and go to Church Number Three on the Potential New Churches list. Eventually, we’ll choose the one that seems like the best fit for us and I’ll go almost every Sunday. I might even teach Sunday School, work with youth, or do something else like that. And maybe, somewhere along the line, my faith in the church will be restored. I pray that it is so.