Last night we decided we’d put it off long enough and we had to finally bite the bullet So, this morning we visited a different church.
I hate visiting different churches.
Actually, it’s just change I hate. I like the routine of knowing where we’re going, when we’re going, who will be there, and what to expect. It feels safe, it feels comfortable, and even when it doesn’t feel “right” the predictability makes it okay. There were a lot of reasons I wanted to keep going to the church we’ve been attending, but too many of them revolved around the routine and comfort of it all, and I’ve long known that if my spiritual life is defined by staying comfortable I’m probably not heading in the right direction.
We’ve attended our home church for almost 10 years. My dad was the senior pastor there for most of those years and has since transitioned to a less “up front” role while a new senior pastor has taken over. It was hard to watch the transition, not because I didn’t support the change but because I observed such horrible behavior on the part of some people I had previously admired. It shook me. It became my singular desire to support the new leadership structure, to become an active participant in its success. To be a part of the solution, not the problem.
And then things started changing – some inconsequential and others important (to me, at least), and I became less sure I wanted to – or thought it was wise to – commit. So we hung back, hoping that the disruptions were growing pains and that as the new leadership found their groove we’d feel like everything was getting back on track.
Things never did really get back on track, though, and we became less convinced it was the right place for us. I don’t believe we’ll ever attend a church that aligns perfectly with our convictions. I just don’t think it’s possible. I don’t think God really cares about the little things people care about and argue about, either. But because we’re human and desire structure and clarity we develop convictions and opinions about details in order to help us make sense of life and things larger than ourselves.
One thing our home church has always done really well is to allow people the freedom to hold varying beliefs on nondoctrinal issues. There were people there – people who ministered together and worshiped together and socialized together – who held vastly different views on spiritual gifts or Christian liberties or parenting or baptism or music preference. I liked that freedom. I didn’t grow up with that freedom and didn’t know how critical it was to me until I finally had it. While I could mention a number of things that discouraged us when we took place, it was a shift in the underlying culture of freedom that has troubled me the most.
I don’t think like a lot of conservative Christians think, and I want to be in a community where that difference is permitted – even nurtured. It’s very important to me that my children see parity in the way men and women are valued and treated. Even more than that, it’s important to me that they have parents who are “all in” with God. Lately, I haven’t been all in. The things I’ve observed over the past few years have left me discouraged and asking questions, the most significant one being if it’s even possible to be healthy in a community of God-followers.
I hope it is, and I have to find out. Hence the different church today. I’m not sure that the problems I’m experiencing rest totally in my home church. Actually, I doubt they do. I’m quite certain that my own heart and mind are part of the problem…maybe all of the problem. But I’ve been trying to figure it out for some time now and am only getting more confused, so I know it’s time for a change.
I’m not sure what the end result of our searching will be. I don’t want to close any doors, but I know we need to pursue some other options. On one hand, I’d love to end up at our home church. I love that place, I love having been a part of what God has done there, I love being a part of a ministry my parents are involved in, I have dear friends there…I’d rather stay there, where it’s comfortable. But I know that’s not the right decision for now. I know we have to seek healing and breathe deeply and be brave.
So I guess that’s what we’ll be doing for now, all the while eager to conclude this period of transition and put down roots once again. So far, we liked what we saw. I think we’ll be going back.