The Lonely Church Hunt

Church hunting is one of my least favorite things to do.

It is oftentimes frustrating and always nerve-wracking. I had a great church experience when I was going to school in Southern California. I was finally beginning to understand the church culture down there and found an amazing family at a new church plant in Orange, California. When I found them I knew my time with them would be limited but I enjoyed every moment of it.

Being back in Oregon means I have to find a church again. The one I attended through high school and the start of college simply isn’t my home anymore. I wanted to find a church within the community I was living in, anyway, not one twenty minutes away in a town I was out of touch with. So Sunday after Sunday (on the Sundays I can manage to get out of bed which is a different topic) I try new churches and I walk out of them feeling strangely alone.

The past few years have taught me that ‘little c’ church is not the same as ‘big c’ Church. The Church, which is the culmination of all God’s people all around the world regardless of denomination, is different than the little church communities that meet in buildings on Sunday. They are all connected to the bigger idea of Church and I would think that would make it easy to slide into a community and find a home. After all, we believe the same things. Death, burial, resurrection and all of that. Yet it doesn’t seem to be the case in my experience.

A favorite author and blogger of mine, Rachel Held Evans, posted this on Facebook yesterday:

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I appreciated it. I appreciated the admission of loneliness because it finally gave me the description of what I felt as I left churches. The thing is the loneliness doesn’t come from a lack of a connection with God. It comes from a lack of connection with God’s people, with my Christian family.

When I started in at my University I would have said that church was about me and God. It was about me going and connecting with God and then leaving until the following week. My view of church was narrow and consisted of me and God. Sure, interaction with other people was nice but it wasn’t a requirement. As long as I was on good terms with God I was fine.

Then I learned something very important: church isn’t about me it is about connecting with fellow believers. It is about joining into something bigger than just me. It is about communion and collective worship. God is seen in his Church, where ever his people gather together he is there, and I think this is by design because He knows that we need each other. His people need to be with other members of the body in order to grow, mentor, flourish, and change.

So when I walk out of a church building on a Sunday and feel lonely it isn’t because I didn’t get something out of God, or that I feel my connection with Him is lacking. I feel lonely because I felt like an alien, a foreigner, and someone who didn’t belong in that particular church.

I won’t give up my search for a church family and already have an idea of where I will go from here, but I wanted to share because I think what Rachel said is important. Any person – Christian or non Christian – who walks out of a church feeling lonely isn’t alone in that feeling.

You’re in good company. 

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6 thoughts on “The Lonely Church Hunt

  1. Wow, I feel you. Looking back on 27 years of futile church-hopping and even the last hard year of church transitioning, I associate so often with that feeling of loneliness in a place where we shouldn’t feel lonely. I love that quote from Rachel Held Evans though. It’s a wonder I’ve not seen some variation of that quote by some person over the years. Very affirming.

    All best in your community search back home! Miss you, friend.

    • I miss you too! I’ve really been missing Southern California today. I miss all of my friends.

      You should check out Rachel’s blog. She’s spoken at Hope twice and I’ve gotten to meet her and she really is something. She’s a fellow struggler and shares from the heart and always gives me something to think about or consider.

  2. Great thoughts. It is really encouraging to see how God has expanded your view from church being something between you and him to something that connects you with him and his community. I’m praying for you as you continue the uncomfortable search for a new church home. We enjoyed having you with us for the brief time God gave us and am confident that God has another great community for you and that he will use this time of searching as a growing experience. Here’s to the awkward journey!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Jay! And thank you for your prayers. I treasure anything I can get right now, since this transition hasn’t been as easy as I had hoped. I miss y’all but there is a church for me here somewhere.

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