Church. When you hear that word, what comes to mind? What emotions are provoked? Do you recall memories? Good or not so good. What words and images appear in your imagination? Has church caused you damage? Has it been your hope? Both of those things. What part does it play in your greater relationship with God?
Stay in that space for me for just a few moments before you continue reading…
Last weekend, I had the privilege of going to visit my grandparents in good ol’ Texas. On Sunday, we woke up and they encouraged me to attend their Lutheran church service right in the middle of their living room. Without hesitation, I told them I would be happy to participate.
Before I get on with the story… Over the last several months, you could say I have sown seeds of distrust for the local church. I have been skeptical and even critical of an institution that is supposed to nurture Christlikeness in its people. It is true that I have my own “church hurt.” To be frank, since I was let go from a church’s staff, I haven’t been able to get myself to want to attend a church service. It’s difficult, to say the least. But when my grandparents invited me to “do” church with them on Sunday, I was honored and was actually excited to get back to my roots. I was initially baptized as a baby in the Luthern church and attend services with my grandparents when I was a child. Needless to say, I needed some nostalgia in my life.
With my grandparents on one couch and me on the other, we watched their local service. My grandma lit candles in her house, set up an altar, even filled up little shot glasses full of wine for communion. That may or may not have been the best part!! The service was filled with liturgical calls and responses. Both affirmations of faith and moments for confession. Moments of silence and moments of prayer. Moments to fill the space with the Holy Spirit rather than with meaningless words. My grandma walked over to me and served me communion, and at that moment, I realized I can’t be without the local church. It was both a sweet memory of what I once cherished and a hope that the church is a place of healing and restoration.
I realize there are valid reasons for people not to love the church. Church hurt is real and painful. I confess to my own contribution to that over the years and also denounce any form of church that looks out for their own image rather than nurturing and restoring dignity. If you are one of those people that can’t show their face ever again in church, I see you. And I pray that there is hope for healing and reconstruction.
Beauty does come from ashes. You may feel like there’s no coming back from it. Maybe you are reeling from wounds that have been created. Experiencing rejection and abandonment. And that’s ok. Be in that space. Deconstruct. Do you what you need to. It takes time and also hard work to put your boots to the ground and actually heal.
But PLEASE for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t deconstruct out of bitterness/anger/resentment/skepticism. Don’t go through the wrestling of faith on your own. You will only damage your heart and the life of the ongoing work of Christ happening in the world.
Someday, your heart will be prepared to experience beauty again. And maybe the role that the local church plays in your life will be radically different from what you experienced before. That is my hope for you. Whether you are not churched, de-churched, or churched you might consider these things…
- Is there a thriving community (no matter how big/small) that is supporting each other and providing for each other in desolate moments?
- Is there a way to refine one another rooted in God’s word?
- Does God’s Spirit reside in the places that you gather?
Peter was instructed by Jesus that his church will be built upon him. A person. A human being. A messed-up human being to be exact. But Peter is the church. We have no church without the people. No hope of the coming Kingdom of God without people.
Love one another. Be kind. Sow goodness. And as you do this, take some time to ponder:
- What specific church wounds do I need to actively heal from and who can I bring along in that process?
- Identify one way you can actively engage in creating a better church.
If you resonate at all with this or are experiencing any church hurt, I’d love to coach you through it!