life of faith

taking baby steps & leaps & everything in between


Our Search for a Church.

Today we drove out to Lancaster to visit a church many of our friends attend. It was quite a commute for church, but we are kind of desperate.

As it turns out, church is an imperative thing in our lives and in our marriage. We need to hear the Word taught to us, we need to worship from the heart, and we need other people to care about us spiritually.

We’ve spent a lot of time searching for the right church home, since before we even started dating…

After college, I worked for a local church for a year and half, and that experience did a lot of damage to me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I had a hard time feeling like I was free to worship in that church or that anyone cared about me spiritually. On top of that, deep wounds were directly inflicted on me from some of my fellow staff members.

I left that job incredibly discouraged, self-conscious, and frustrated; I felt purposeless, which was a very difficult thing for me to sort through without becoming depressed and doubting God. It was very difficult for me to even be physically present in a church for almost a full year after leaving.

Thankfully, God patiently and meticulously repaired my heart during that time and motivated me to go back to church in February of 2010. Since then, I have had a strong desire to be back in church. Dayne’s been with me on this search the whole way, and I am so grateful for that because I don’t think I would do it alone. One thing many churches lack is an outreach to visitors; a warm welcome is sorely missing in most of the area churches I’ve visited. I don’t know how this is not a priority, because it seems to me that including visitors should be the first thing churches should be focused on because it’s what Jesus calls us to do.

We’ve repeatedly visited three different churches over the past approximately two years, and we barely received a “hello” at any of them. This morning, we shifted to our fourth church.

We need people who are going to seek to know us. We need people who are going to invite and encourage us to become involved. We need people who are going to mentor us and hold us accountable in attendance as well as spiritual health. We need people who are going to partner in joy with us in life and love us deeply, who we can partner with and love in return.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, is meant to do life alone. Dayne and I have to put in our effort to build relationships and involvement, but we really would like to attend a place where it is not 99% our effort with 1% feedback. We’d like it to be closer to 50/50.

All of that is why we sucked up the commute and drove an hour away to church this morning… because at least we knew there were people there who know us, love and care about us, and would be happy to see us (and vice versa). And while it’s hard to admit sometimes, we really need that. We need the warm and fuzzy, because we’ve gone way too long with the cold and distant.

For Dayne and me, the most important thing in our lives is our relationship with Christ – and we need to take proactive (and sometimes difficult) steps to nourish and nurture it. For the health of ourselves and the health of our marriage.

We don’t know if this church is going to become our church home, but we at least know that we’re on the first step and we have the motivation to pursue. I wrote on our visitors’ card under prayer requests this morning that the staff would pray that God would lead us to the right church. We don’t want to make this about us, but we want to make ourselves ready for and responsive to God. We are hoping to reestablish a strong foundation.

Have any of you had to settle into a church where you didn’t know anybody? Have any of you had a difficult church experience? Have any of you had an extraordinary church experience? Do any of you have any advice on finding and/or making a church home? This is one entry in particular where I would really appreciate your comments and feedback. Thanks for reading ūüôā

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Jail.

I find so many interesting things through Twitter… really.

John Piper (Christian author & pastor) posted on Twitter this morning with a link to a letter that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from a jail in Birmingham in 1963. ¬†He mentioned that Stephen Oates (I had to look him up – Wikipedia says that he was a history professor at UMass Amherst and wrote a biography of MLK Jr.) called it “the most eloquent expression of the movement”. ¬†I looked forward to reading it all morning.

Came home, read it, and … wow. ¬†I mean, I’m challenged by Martin Luther King, Jr. at the outset. ¬†But this letter really got me and made me think. ¬†How would I respond if injustice showed up on my doorstep? ¬†Would I be an advocate of mediocrity, the status quo, or the way things are… or would I rise above it? ¬†Would I even think twice? ¬†I overlook small injustices and distant injustices all the time. ¬†It’s overwhelming to think of all the injustices in the world, yet they exist…

So I’m going to let these quotes, my favorites from the letter, sink in… (followed by my questions for myself in Italics):

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice… ¬†Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

Am I far more attached to being “comfortable” than doing what is right? ¬†How am I being dismissive? ¬†How am I representing the Church?

“…Though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. ¬†Was not Jesus an extremist for love… Amos an extremist for justice… Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel… Was not Martin Luther an extremist… and John Bunyan… and Abraham Lincoln… and Thomas Jefferson… ¬†So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. … Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

Am I being an extremist?  If so, what am I being an extremist for?  If not, WHY not?

“Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. ¬†But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists. … If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.” (emphasis mine)

I have seen the neglect and pickiness and pettiness that sometimes exists in the church when confronted with social issues. ¬†I was in disbelief a few years ago when I learned that many churches were late to address the AIDS pandemic because of its association with sexual sin. ¬†Thankfully, I go to a church now that I believe does its best to seek and follow the call of God in response to its community and the world. ¬†But I strongly agree with King’s statements. ¬†The church ceases to be the Church when it overlooks suffering. ¬†BUT… the hard question is… how do I respond to suffering?

I have no desire to be a part of a social club (who needs it?). ¬†I want to be involved in a movement for Jesus Christ and His love for the world. ¬†But it really does start with me… you can’t move with a group if you aren’t going the same direction.

And so, I take this gentle reminder to reorient myself, to repent of my mediocrity, and to take a step forward.

[see MLK Jr.’s full letter here]