Of Churches and Belonging

Just over a month ago, I stepped down from preaching at a little church in Arkansas that I had been a part of for 3 years. Why that happened probably will take a whole different post, so let's just leave it that it was time.

Well, this led to a problem Ann and I haven't had much in our lives. We now have no church family, no place we belong on Sundays. It's a weird feeling. We've visited two different churches, went to church with family out of town once, skipped once, and one time I've gotten to preach.

One church we visited was so seeker-sensitive, so concerned about letting us explore the options in an unthreatened manner, that, had I not known one of the multitude of pastors, we would have been lost and completely unnoticed. Another church we attended was so obsessed with raising money to build a gym for the church that they had turned the entire service over to the idea. Even the sermon was a plea for money, indicating that all we truly had to do to spread the Gospel was to build this gym, and people will come! (Incidentally, that only works for Kevin Costner, and remember, the 'he' that Costner got was not who he expected. Watch the movie again.) The church we attended this past Sunday was good. I won't give the preacher a thumbs-up or down. His church supports and loves him, which is good for both sides, but it's hard not to do it myself. The only time in recent memory that I've been able to listen without criticism or nodding off too much to someone else's preaching is when I was doing it too. This church was very welcoming, people were willing to come and talk with us, and people did say they wanted us to come back. It just wasn't home.

One thing that Christians need in church is a sense of it being home, a place where we belong. Not just because we go and sit in the pew, but because our lives are intertwined with those around us. I think that's why some churches are good at reaching people that have no relationship with Christ, but then can't seem to grow as a church. It's not just a matter of getting people something to do in church, but of adjusting our lives to bring in more people. Even in all of our individuality, we need to structure our lives so that we need people. That's where the belonging comes into play. It's not so much a place to belong that we need, but people that we belong with, that is what our hearts are crying out to find.

So, if you have that belonging within the people of God, good! Don't neglect it, and don't lock other people out of it. If you're still looking for it, I pray you'll find those people you belong with that will help you to grow in your faith, to be strengthened to serve, and just to be able to face life...

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