Monday, February 2, 2015

Let's Break Up (and how my love for (c)hurch was restored in the midst of a split)

I grew up with an eclectic, yet rich, church background.  My mom began taking my brother and I to a small Nazarene Church, and that's really all I remember for many years.  Fast forward to a split, and mom takes us to the local Wesleyan church.  I call these years the "holiness formation" years.  I learned about quiet times, seeking to be holy, and experience during these years.  Fast forward to my junior high and high school years when I dabbled in a variety of churches:  the local non-denominational (charismatic) church in which I learned how to pray with boldness and confidence, then a local Baptist church I attended with a boyfriend and his family in which I first heard of KJV-onlyism and music with a beat being inappropriate (this church experience negatively impacted my view of Baptists, and still does to some degree --I am truly sorry, my precious Baptist friends.  Jesus is still working on me).  We then softly landed at a medium size free Baptist church with an incredible teacher, the likes of whom I haven't heard since (and who still faithfully Pastor's my father's church).  I learned a love for Scripture here.  I learned grace, love, community, and knowledge here.  It was a lovely place.  Then I went to college.  YIKES!!  I had felt emotionally drawn to Catholicism off and on my entire childhood, but I thought you had to be born Catholic to be Catholic--so that was that.  I never landed anywhere in college.  Sure, we attended an Assemblies of God, and I would sometimes drive home to the local Charismatic Church, but I never connected. 

Fast forward to post college when my hubs and I ended up at a small Baptist Church.  It was there I learned doctrine for the first time, systematically speaking.  It was also where I became hyper aware of inconsistencies, legalism, being someone's project, etc.  I loved so many people there, and I really did learn a lot.  But it was also a place filled with pain--some due to immaturity, some due to sin.  We left said little church for bigger Baptist Church in the same affiliation, and I started to feel that sense of community again.  However, I had some nagging questions.  By then I had learned a variety of opposing doctrines, and I was trying to sort out for myself why I believed what I believed.  I went through a major crises of faith.  I never once considered abandoning my love for Jesus.  But church??  That was another story.  I could do without her.  She was mean, legalistic, fought with everyone she disagreed with, stuck with her own, and produced plastic people.  So, I did what any normal girl would do in the midst of a faith crises--I joined the Catholic Church.  In the Catholic Church, I learned reverence and mystery and continuity and history.  The church has a long history!!  It didn't, in fact, start with the Anabaptists.  Hmm.  Who would have guessed?  It still has such a grip on my soul.  It is so other-worldly and beautiful, despite those teachings I do not agree with, it was a place of real healing for my soul.

However, hubs was NOT on board, and I get that.  I really do.  See, he was raised in the Assemblies of God church.  You could say there were differences.  So, we began a search together.  We visited a large non-denom church that was fine, but I couldn't handle it.  I had had a taste of all that lovely quiet, liturgy, mystery, reverence, and beauty, and I wasn't quite willing to abandon it entirely.  So, we were invited to attend a local Lutheran Church by some parents on the soccer team my husband coached.  We fell in love very quickly.  It was very different for hubs, but he loved it, and it was such a place of healing, finding myself, community, and all that beauty I so loved in the Catholic Church.  It was the perfect place for us to meet half way, and we were happy to raise our children there.  They loved it too.

We moved.  That was heartbreaking.  We tried a few churches out after the move, but none felt like "home" until we found that Lutheran Church in the same affiliation.  That was home for all of us.  After some time, there were doctrinal issues that crept up that bothered hubs.  I get it.  Again, I understand.  We made a drastic switch to a local Christian, non-denom church, and I was not. having. it.  No.Way.  Worship was this horrendous ordeal for me.  The first week there, I felt like someone was scratching the chalkboard next to me.  But the kids loved it.  They loved it, and I saw them come alive.  I heard them talking about it after church, during the week, and looking forward to going back.  One kiddo (who couldn't stand going to church) was drawing pictures about how much she loved the new Pastor.  So, I kept my mouth shut and just argued with myself and God instead.  Slowly, I began to fall in love with the simplicity and sincerity of this congregation, despite the fog, lights, and concert feel.  Did I mention it was huge??  The Lutheran Church we had been members of was roughly the same size, but this just felt ENORMOUS.  Soon after I worked through all my crazy issues with worship style and began to fall in love with this style of worship, the church went through a massive split.

Are. you. kidding.  me??  Nope.  They really did.  But, again, our kids LOVED it!!  They were terrified we would leave, so I kept my mouth shut and argued with myself and God.  Again.  Ok.  I did complain to my hubs and friends as well.  The move was so very rough on them, so we were NOT leaving this church.  In fact, I told our kids that unless a Pastor stood up front and denied Jesus, we were staying.  So we did, and here's what I learned.

I learned a lot about myself.  You see, I grew up believing church was all about me.  My preferences.  My experiences.  My ideas of perfection.  I grew up believing that if said church hurt your feelings or no longer met your needs (or God forbid, experienced a split), you just picked up your pack and headed to the next place.  I learned that I never truly felt planted because I learned at a young age to just quit when the going got tough.  I learned a lot about the church, too.  Yes, Jesus died for the Church universal, but he also died for the church local.  And he plants us locally.  How could I say I stood for the Church when I couldn't even stand by little church??  I learned that it really is all about Jesus and HIS bride--He died for her!  He died for her brokenness, her sin, her inability to maintain a conflict-free zone for long, and even her hypocrisy.  He died for her.  He died for me.  I am a part of something so much bigger.  I am blessed to be able to live in a country in which I can drive to a local congregation, sing my heart out, read Scripture collectively, and hear the Word taught.  Do I really want to abandon the true faith over preferences?  Or did I want to be a part of safe guarding Truth for my children and my children's children??  I learned that happens at the local, and very messy, level.  You can't create any other route.  It's a local church, peeps. 

I love my church.  I have never experienced the sense of community I now experience.  I have never felt more love and solidarity in the midst of seeing what seems like half our congregation walk out the door over music style, preaching style, preferences--not Truth.  They didn't leave because Jesus was denied.  They didn't leave because His Word was no longer taught.  And I could have just joined the mob and left as well.  I wanted to.  I would have missed out on so very much.  I am here to stay.  WE are here to stay, my family and I.  We have learned that people mess up.  The church didn't find itself in the mess it was in overnight.  Nope.  I have watched our head Pastor remain courageous, faithful, and filled with integrity despite outright lies, meanness, and misrepresentation.  I am thankful for the split.  Yes, it's sad to see people go, and I wish many had stuck around to see the beautiful work God is doing in our church, but if all this needed to happen just to teach me not to bolt when times get tough, to support those barely hanging on, to learn the church isn't about my preferences but about what Jesus wants to do through each of us at the local level, then it was well worth it.

For the first time, I love her--I love this messy church that He died for.  I want to be a part of that sacred deposit, and I want to be a part of this beautiful community that just loves Jesus and wants to share him with everyone without all the fanfare. And all those lessons I learned throughout the years?  They really make sense now.  They have all come together in my soul, and they have prepared me for this time.  I love my Pastor, Elders, and fellow servants in Christ.  When the going gets tough, we have to do a face plant and get real with God.  I am thankful for what a messy church split taught me about my faith, about the church, and about my place within it all.  We are in a beautiful place right now, and we could have missed out on it all.  Wherever their is pain and suffering, healing is in the wings. And that healing is deeply profound.  It truly is.  So, lets not break up, ok??  Lets stick this out and see what Jesus is going to do because of it.  I love my church--little c.  It's home.  

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled across your post today and appreciated it greatly. I can resonate with your pilgrimage through a variety of church denominations. Eventually, like yourself, I converted to Catholicism. I don't think it was a crisis of faith for me, because Catholicism beckoned me at many levels, and for many years. Even so, the lack of continuity and stability in the evangelical churches I belonged to over the years took its toll. There were always arguments, issue after issue left unresolved, pastors moving on, etc., etc. As much as I appreciate the beauty of Catholicism, along with the "ancientness" of it, the stability of our parish church provides a real sense of comfort and security. I appreciate not having to worry about the church splitting in two, and it is comforting to know that our next priest isn't going to rewrite the church's statement of faith.

    I can understand your husband's sentiments--I wasn't sure about my own husband joining me until he had a profound experience of the Eucharist that changed his life. I do wonder if your husband looked into the charismatic Catholic scene which isn't as different from AOG as one might think.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about all this. God bless you and yours.