I am often struck by how many people I know who have a bad taste in their mouth about Christians and the church. How sad. I used to wonder how so many people could be missing out on the great blessings that come with church membership. After all I was there ALL THE TIME. In addition to regular Sunday worship we were involved in children’s ministry, small groups, VBS planning, prayer meetings, missions lunches, and any other event that happened to pop up on the church schedule. There was so much involvement within the church we hardly had time to involve ourselves outside the church. The tragic part is that we didn’t really mind. It was convenient for my husband and I to show up on Sunday and clock in. We were proving to ourselves and our friends that we were good people, which at the time was very important to us. Plus it allowed us to be connected with people who thought just like us while preventing us from having to deal with people who were not lat all like us (incidentally, I am ashamed to admit that this was also important to me). At that time I would have told you that I could be content to maintaining that easy, cheesy spiritual existence forever.
That said, I was none the wiser until my husband and I had some serious real world problems come up that shook our little insulated church existence. I talked a little bit about this in a previous post so I’m not going to go into it. But we did realize through the experience that, despite our frequent church attendance, we were spiritually bankrupt. We had been so busy “doing church” that we missed God. Then I realized, this is it. This is what people are taking about when they told me they didn’t see any value in attending church. I was finally seeing for what it is. How sad indeed.
As my husband and I began to work through our stuff we started to really examine our relationships with each other and with God. After a while we began to improve our relationship and started to connect spiritually in ways we had never experienced before. As our faith grew our miracle of reconciliation grew too (Matthew 9:29). After a while we made the difficult decision to look for a new church. One where we would be able to continue our spiritual growth with people who were NOT like us/ In fact we wanted to be with people who were as screwed up as we now realized we were. We wanted a place were people understood that they didn’t have it all together, where we didn’t have to pretend we had it all together, and where people longed to bring new members into the group…new members who also didn’t have it together.
When we started to look for a new church we had a lot of long talks about what we were really looking for. What we new we wanted is perfectly described in Matthew 10: 5 – 27. When Jesus sent out the twelve he commanded them to: seek out lost sheep, proclaim the message, heal the sick, raise the dead (spiritually or otherwise), cleanse the unclean, take action against evil, act fearlessly in faith, and take rest within the relationships that they develop. That is what we wanted! We wanted to make our home with others who believed in looking out rather than looking in. We needed to connect with others interested in developing deep relationships, relationships that we could count on when we needed an extra tunic. Most importantly a we wanted to find a place where the truths that are whispered by the still small voice of our Father are proclaimed from the rooftops…as in outside, where other people can hear.
So, here’s a quick shout out. If you are looking for Matthew 10 kind of place in the Detroit area check out The Woods (http://www.wwnazarene.org/). We’re glad to call it home.
As a closing thought, I was really called into account reading Matthew 9:37 “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” There is a lot to harvest both within and outside of our church walls and I feel compassionate about it. I realized in reading today’s scriptures and doing some self reflection in preparation for this post that the pendulum may have swung the other way. I was doing too much church stuff in the wrong place, but now I’m not really doing enough kingdom stuff at the right place. In other words, I think I’m being prepared to go into the harvest. Hmmm, should be interesting.