the search for church.
Sometimes I like to look back through old writing that I didn’t post because at the time they were too raw, too close for comfort.
Sometimes when I find them now it is such a testament to the glory of God and the work he is doing in our lives (see the dung).
Since moving to Zanesville we’ve been swept up in a loving and gospel filled church community. They are plopped down in the middle of an impoverished area, right down the street from our work at The Narrows. They are bringing God’s kingdom to the streets of Zanesville, worshipping him simply and focused on living with one another in community. We are so thankful to have fallen into a group of friends who we can share our lives with.
Glory be to God. The following words were written in the fall of 2014 (mostly unedited).
5 years ago we decided that conventional church was no longer for us. I suppose we threw conventional life out the window as well when we bought a campervan, sold our stuff and traveled around the U.S. We came back 6 months later searching out an inner-city neighborhood to call home and landed on a double lot in the heart of the near east side.
Our early writings while traveling were full of reasons that the church was no good. They wasted money, didn’t really get to the heart of the gospels, etc. etc. Certainly we were 23 and had it all figured out.
But as most 23 year olds realize after a few more years of living, we did not have it figured out.
We had tried to replace church with more spontaneous community.
We tried Sunday night dinners, a time to hang out with friends and eat and if we were lucky we would sometimes touch on spiritual matters in our conversations.
We tried “broughts”, a small group with close friends where we “brought” something to each meeting. Sometimes it was a bag of chips, sometimes a spiritual thought we had while reading.
Somewhere in there we had a child and rested from trying so hard to find a place to fit in. I remember feeling so lonely, with such a desire to connect with others on a deeper basis.
As we got older we developed more stable friendships and decided to give a living room group a try again. We had a few couples who we would meet with, pray with and discuss spiritual topics with. It was great while it lasted, but schedules prevented us from furthering it.
Two years ago I journaled to pray about seeking a physical church space once again. There were several discussions over the next year between Brad and I about this possibility of going to the normal Sunday service again, and after some prayer and deliberation we both decided it was worth a try.
We attended a small contemporary church for a few months and found it comforting that there were a lot of people like us there. We felt very comfortable and it felt genuine, however there were some issues that we could not get past.
We had become accustomed to enjoying this Sunday morning ritual again so we decided to try the church that we had left many years before.
We fell back in to a routine for a few months. Enjoyed worshipping with others and feeling the presence of God. I integrated myself into a book group which I thoroughly enjoyed and felt inspired by.
But there was a Sunday afternoon, a few months later, that Brad and I both looked at each other and said the same thing. It’s fine, but it’s really just not where we’re at right now. As much as we felt like it was a good place to be, it wasn’t quite right for us.
This was a suburban church, we are an urban people. It took us 25 minutes to drive there which makes it a bit inconvenient. How many churches must we pass on the way there? Why would we reach so far out of our element to worship and build relationships?
The past few months we’ve reclaimed our Sundays as days we try to have no expectations. We do not do work and we try to not have too many planned things.
But still the desire for community nags at my soul. I am lonely with all of these thoughts sometimes.
Is there anyone else out there like us? Who desires true community and who understands what it’s like to live where we live?
Our lives are unconventional but it’s where God wants us. For years now I’ve been clinging to the hope that he will bring us into true community with others but honestly I’m getting impatient.
Am I the problem? Am I preventing true community? Am I overlooking perfectly good options because they’re not what I think is right for us?
I don’t know.
I have a hard time speaking up for what I believe in and for voicing my opinion. I am an introvert with extrovert tendencies which means I truly enjoy engaging in meaningful conversations with others. When I find people who share my passions or who make me think differently I feel truly refreshed and invigorated.
I dislike superficial conversations about how good the worship in a church is. Why in the world would that be the most important thing about finding community? Shouldn’t we spur each other on to living more selfless, light-filled lives?
Seriously, who gives a shit if there’s coffee available before a service or whether or not the children’s ministry has a really cool program?
There are people dying without the love of Jesus everyday. They are being swept up into violent lives, living in poverty with a feeling of hopelessness about their lives.
People are dying all over the world. People are dying right here in my neighborhood. People are struggling, they’re getting mixed up into the wrong things, they are hungry. They are lonely. I am lonely.
What can we do about this?
I don’t know.