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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The Lion and the Lamb

I am bothered.

I’m currently taking a class on Revelation and there is one image that has stuck out to me. In the midst of all of the symbolism, the Old Testament references, and all of the insane imagery that Revelation uses there is one moment that I think sums up everything about this life I’ve chosen in Christ.

Revelation 5:1-7 (ESV):

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. As I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’

 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.”

John is weeping because no one is able to open the scroll, which scholars believe is a symbol of God’s plan of redemption. Yet in the midst of his sorrow one of the elders around the throne calls out and declares that all is well, the Lion of the tribe of Judah can open the scroll! The Lion, the powerful kingly and conquering Messiah had arrived. All would be well because the Lion of Judah would decimate the enemies of His people and end suffering.

Excited at this prospect, John probably swung his head around sharply in order to catch a glimpse of this magnificent defender and conqueror.

Instead of a lion, however, he saw a slaughtered lamb.

The slaughtered Lamb is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of the house of David, the Messiah, and the conquering King.

You see, Jesus did not come to conquer with violence. He did not come to bring glory to himself and his people through blood and death. He conquers through suffering. He conquered through dying.

The implications of this are heavy and hard because our idea of glory in this life is not what the Bible makes glory out to be in the Kingdom of God. We conquer through suffering. We begin to model the Kingdom of God when we sacrifice ourselves humbly.

While evil still exists and Christ is still to come again, our call is to not glorify ourselves and our actions. We’re not called to prideful boasting in our own holiness. We also do not get a free pass from the suffering of the world just because we believe what we believe. We are called to pick up our cross daily, die to ourselves, and engage with the world from a place of humility because that is the model our savior laid out for us.

So now I’m bothered because this is both a beautiful revelation and a hard truth to swallow. There is no gospel of prosperity, Deuteronomistic theology holds no ground. We will not achieve glory, fame, and riches in this life. Rather, we will have to pour ourselves out like Jesus did and realize that we are here to serve even in our suffering.

Ouch.