“Church isn’t a social club.”
A friend shared this simple statement with me and I can’t get it out of my mind. I’ve been reflecting on church A LOT lately. My mindset has always been that unless I move away or get married and go to a different church with my spouse, then I would attend the same church for life. I’ve believed it’s about the congregation, the people, and not just the pastors and programs that come and go. That through struggles and joys and heartbreaks and celebrations, I would be a faithful member of that congregation. But, it’s not about the community of faith. Although that sounds harsh, that’s not what’s most important about keeping me at my church. Sometimes that’s the very thing that can be distracting….if the social aspects become the priority and growing in faith takes a back seat. It’s God and my faith and the challenge to learn and grow in Christ. That’s the church I want to be an active member of. I want to grow spiritually within that kind of community, through those programs, in that place. And, when I am completely honest, my faith has stagnated. I’m yearning for more. I feel I’m at the cusp of a greatness God has planned for me. And, that greatness includes stepping away from my church, from that community of faith that is so familiar, and into exploring this curiosity. I’m stepping out and following God.
Sometimes, my doubts about venturing elsewhere manifest themselves into thoughts that I’m giving up. The ‘honeymoon’ period is over. I’ve been at my church for ten years. It’s all so very familiar. Many relationships go through rocky patches and dry spells and periods of doubt and a ‘desert experience.’ The excitement just isn’t there like it once was. I’m overly comfortable, just going through the motions. But, I feel this undeniable need to explore what else is out there. I’m ready for something new. I want passion and life. I crave deep conversations and new insights to wrestle with and challenge me. I seek new teachers and yearn for a new welcoming community. I’ve had many different teachers in my life and have had a richer faith journey because of them.
‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20
But, what about the community of faith? I struggle with this. The community is so very important. The community is who is there when pastors and programs come and go. They’re the ones bringing meals and praying together and opening up their hearts in small groups. They share their faith with me and I share with them. They are the lifeblood of the church. But, what if the community just isn’t enough anymore? What if God wants to shake me from the ultra familiar?
I don’t know what all of this means, so I’ve been listening. I’ve been present each and every week, whether it’s at my current church, or with a new congregation. I’m soaking it all in. It’s humbling to be a visitor again. Aware of the way the congregation treats those who are new. How they reach out to welcome me. The anonymity is a rare departure from my everyday life. In these new settings within other congregations, I’m looking at my faith with a fresh perspective. I believe it is here that God wants to renew me. I believe it is here that He will speak to me in an undeniable way and let me know that ‘this is the place; this is right where I want you to learn and grow and be for the next leg of your journey.’