Sunday, September 21, 2008
I ought to be in church right now, but I am not. Oliver decided to wake up at 5 a.m., burn bright and happy for three hours and then crash spectacularly at 8:15 this morning. I am fairly certain that I've never put any child down for a nap before 10 a.m., so you can bet my Mommy Radar is in high gear, ferreting out what potential infections are probably brewing in his little system.
Jo is sidelined (literally) with a cold. Watching the rain pour from the grey sky this morning, dh and I decided that the last thing our coughing girl--who is predisposed to lingering airway issues--needed was a nice, long stint inhaling rain and mud on the soccer field. She is currently shuffling a deck of Quiddler cards and looking for a victim.
So I am not in church. Instead, I am at home, pondering (yet again) the purpose of church.
I have reread the book of Acts twice in the past two weeks. For some reason "church," as a concept, is weighing heavy on my heart. I suspect that it is because my family has been through some major upheavals in our Christ-following thinking over the past year.
Nearly two years ago, my family embarked on a journey to begin piecing together a church plant. Anyone who has participated in a church planting process knows that I speak the truth when I say it is a labor of love that consumes much time, many resources and massive amounts of energy. We gave all three eagerly.
We are no longer with the church plant. While it is still serving the area, we have returned to our sending church. There was no fantastical drama, no explosive blow-up. Just ... silence. Just a clear leading that this was no longer the place where we could serve effectively.
The effect of the church planting experience has rippled throughout our lives together over the past year or so. Every time I think it has culminated--that we will return to the original joy that we felt in our church community prior to beginning the plant, that we will leave behind the disappointment and the sadness--it seems to crest again.
Our sending church no longer feels like home. The foundation is still strong. There is movement and growth and an upswell of the Spirit among the leadership that may just lead this church to experience a near revival-like atmosphere. Yet, as I have sat in service on Sunday mornings, I have seen only a handful of congregants respond.
There is no trickle down. No viral message. No buy-in.
This pains me. And, I admit--it pains me even more deeply to realize that I am among the unmoved.
I love the Lord. My commitment to Christ is strong and feels vibrant. I am still basking in the Truth and longing to share it with others. And yet my community of Brothers and Sisters seems stale and outdated. More over, they seem to not care. There is no joy. No breath of fresh air. And this makes it hard for me to love my church.
Am I simply still reeling from the planting hurt? Am I growing cynical? How can I break this cycle? How can I stop feeding into the problem? What does it mean to participate in the Body of Christ? What are our responsibilities? Is church simply for corporate worship? What are we called to do and be for one another?
I believe that if I can define for myself what the purpose of church is, I will begin to unlock the answers.
Anyone care to chime in?
ETA: I have already received an email asking for some clarification on my denomination. While I don't believe that this is an issue that requires such a disclaimer (and, truth be told, I find such labels to be extremely limiting theologically), I will give a little background. I consider myself to be a nondenominational Christian. I profess that I am a sinner and Christ is my Savior. Titus 3:5 sums up the faith/works issue to my satisfaction. I was raised by a Baptist-converted-to-Catholic mother, agnostic father, atheist grandfather (who has since become a Christian) and Bible-thumping, Southern Missionary Baptist grandmother who grew up Holiness and still refuses to play cards or dance. I have eaten cold fried chicken on the grass near the white clapboards of a country church and I have taken communion while kneeling at the rail of the most beautiful cathedral my eyes have ever taken in. I am a follower of Jesus. What more can I say?