I'm beginning to think that Luis and I are the grim reapers of churches.
Three of the Four churches that we have been members at in the 8 years we've been married are no longer churches.
Some of them have transitioned to different types of ministries and others had pastors who relocated and the existing church changed leadership, names and overall structural existence.
When these changes have come, Luis and I usually will start looking for a new home church and ask around for insight from people we know on where they are going and try a few out before we'll land in one that "checks the boxes" ( a topic I'll come back to shortly).
I find myself thinking of this children's song from Ms. Rachel that Levi is obsessed with.
" hop little bunnies hop hop hop, hop little bunnies hop hop hop, hop little bunnies hop then stop"
I feel like I'm that little bunny hopping around just waiting to feel the Holy Spirit to tell me to stop.
This is a super hard process. I equate it to buying new jeans! I know that's a super unholy thing to say, but let's be honest good jeans matter. You spend a lot of time in them. Think about it; finding the right fit, does it flex in the right spots, give you the right coverage, feel good! You know it makes sense!
Having been someone who's moved a lot of times; this is a process that's not new to me by any means, but that doesn't make it any easier.
There are so many aspects to consider. Seasonally we need different things at different times in our lives. As our children grow in their faith, or as our schedules become busier sometimes self-sufficiency in our walk can become more difficult. But I realized I had developed a cynicism when visiting these churches. I was critiquing their service, the message, the way it was ran and even their people and if I thought they were really about the Father's business. As if I'm the all knowing judge of such things. Of course I'm not at all. Sure I believe in righteous judgement and the gift of discernment, but that's not what I was relying on here what so ever. I was filtering everything through the lens of my experiences and wants. Not needs but wants.
So as always the Holy spirit reached out and gave me a little love tap of a smack and showed me the mirror of my soul and own character. Mid way through a conversation with a friend who is also looking for a home church, as we were discussing the ones we had each visited and giving our "critiques"; I heard the Holy Spirit say remember what C.S. Lewis said in the Screw Tape Letters about that.
“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. . . . The search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.”
OUCH!!! That one hurt.
Thank you HS for keeping it real. I had been going for all the wrong reasons. Not to hear from God and be in His presence, but to fill myself up. ME ME ME and maybe a little of my family as well. But predominantly what suits me.
This pickiness and unrealistic expectations, paired with some church hurt and a busy season even had me considering just doing church at home with me and my family. But then God reminded me of His command through His word.
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near Hebrews 10:25
Some may be asking but why? Why can't I just serve God on my own and cut out all the other people. I mean I'm still serving God right? He still has my heart right?
But is that true? How can you fulfill His commandments starting with the one previously mentioned in Hebrews, or such like "Go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28 :19) if we're secluding ourselves.
Yes it's super hard but fellowship is SO important for growth and accountability. Iron sharpens iron (prov 27:17).
Not only that but isn't it somewhat nice to know that someone else who is serving God and seeking His wisdom is accountable to God when it comes to your growth and spiritual direction?
Hebrews 13:17 commands us to
"Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit"
Well there's another spiritual spanking for me. Am I giving my pastors and those I serve under and along side a reason to fulfill their calling with joy vs sorrow. Or am I a pain in the butt? I complain, I give my opinions often on how things could be improved on without being asked, I scowl from the pew, and I serve much less than is often needed.
Wait... am I the problem????
Yup, pretty sure I sure am. Sad reality check.
So what now?
Well for starts, I need to get planted in a church and not be tossed about by every new teaching (Eph 4:14) or perhaps different way of teaching. I need to attend with the mind to be a pupil or disciple rather than a critic. I need to serve as Jesus did and His disciples did who set examples of what was expected of those who came after them. I need to ask for wisdom and discernment but not as a tool of judgement (James 1:5).
I pray that this speaks to you as well. Even if your not church hopping/hunting, but maybe if you've just become over cynical from the pew (Armchair quarterbacks if I may). I pray that the Lord blesses you in your comings and goings and uses you mightily in His kingdom to do his bidding.
With Love Gwen