A Tale of Two Churches - A Place to Belong

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This past weekend, we had the great privilege of visiting our previous church home. It had been almost 6 months since we last walked through its doors, but when we did, it did not feel as if we’d been absent even a day. Seeing familiar smiling faces and enjoying the bond of our family of faith was an incredible joy. Out of playfulness, my husband and I sat in our “usual” places in the worship center and surprised the folks around us. There was laughter and smiles and hugs. It felt so good to be home. There had been some changes since we left, such as the addition of a new Pastor of Worship, but, that only added to the excitement and joy we felt worshiping the Lord in a place that so obviously and freely was sharing the love of Christ.

I admit that when we left, I wasn’t anxious to head back to our new home, so we delayed it as much as possible and enjoyed visiting some of our favorite places. I tried not to cry as I felt homesickness creep over me. But, I carefully switched my thinking to new beginnings and the new church we recently have been attending.

Going back a few months in our journey, we have been diligent in searching for a new place to worship in our new town. We understand the value and importance of fellowship and connection within the Body of Christ. We have been attending different churches ever since our move, but have learned that finding a new church home can be a difficult task. One would think it would be easy, but as we have been praying and listening for God’s voice to confirm where He wants us to be, we have discovered it to be a challenge. Still though, we are trusting God for His direction, for we know the importance of coming together to worship.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

There is one church we have been attending over the past month where we have been trying to get involved. On Sundays, we have still felt like “new-bees” but realize that it sometimes takes a while to settle in. The church is large and with that come some challenges in the “connection department”, but we purposely have been taking steps toward crossing that bridge. There was a special event on Monday night with a barbecue and special speaker. The event was supposed to be one to reach out to people, get acquainted as well as worship and hear God’s word. I know that in a large church, making sure that people feel welcomed can be difficult, however, we were so discouraged halfway through the evening that we left. I know... That sounds terrible. We don't want to judge. We know it is hard to talk to strangers. People are already in groups of friends and opening up their circle to new people can be scary. But, aren’t we the Body of Christ? Isn’t the local church, as Pastor Rick Warren suggests, “A lab for practicing God’s love”?

Unfortunately, we didn’t experience that on Monday. After we got our food, we went from table to table asking if we could join the people who were already sitting there. And, table after table, we were turned away. We wandered through the crowded room, searching for someplace to sit, and finally ended up sitting alone in the bleachers at the back of the room. I felt so awkward with my food precariously balanced on my knee and feeling like an outcast in a place where everyone should feel welcome. I know I am sounding critical, but I felt humiliated, and my husband was feeling even worse. We tried to look on the positive side of things and thought, “Ok, this is just poor planning…they’ve run out of tables. It’s ok.” But then, as we ate and tried to catch the eyes of the people who kept on walking by us as if we were invisible, we became more and more discouraged.

I know that the church is made up of imperfect people, including me! We are all on a journey, seeking to know and follow Christ more closely. But after our experience on Monday night, my enthusiasm has faded. I don’t feel like I can face walking through the doors of that particular church on Sunday. The upcoming event for women to find out where I could serve has lost its appeal. And so has the Bible study that begins next week. Those are all bad signs, I know. But, now I’m questioning if this is God’s way of telling us this isn’t where He wants us to be. Or is it the enemy trying to keep us from where we could connect and give back to God? I don’t know. It is very confusing and disheartening. However, writing out my thoughts today is helping me to sort things out. Thank you for listening…and for praying if you would. I know God doesn’t want us to feel isolated. He wants us to experience the fellowship and connection through the Body of Christ; for it is there that we as a whole Church can be a witness to the world.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

And to our previous church home, my thanks go out to you and to the members of that congregation who so willingly open themselves up to “future friends” each day. During our time there, and our visit last weekend, we felt welcomed, accepted, and loved. Thank you for obeying God and extending Christ’s love. And as my husband put it so perfectly, you “are a breath of fresh air.”

Hopeful for direction,






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21 comments

  1. Oh Joan. I am so sorry that this happened to you and your husband. Moving isn't easy - on many fronts- but when confronted with the added difficulty of church mis-connection, well, I understand. I have to say that we were so blessedly lucky when we moved to our mountain town. There were really only a couple of options for an evangelical church. But, we have been attending a small Bible church for over a year, and have been welcomed with open arms (in addition to awesome teaching from the pulpit). I am so grateful. I think it has something to do with being a small church in a very small town.


    I will pray that the Lord will lead you to the right place - whether it be somewhere else, or this church in a more positive light.


    GOD BLESS!

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  2. Oh, I know that miserable feeling so well. It's hard to know the best route to take but it's good that you're committed to finding a new church family despite the difficulty. My one suggestion (since we had a similar experience), is to gently and lovingly let the pastor of the church know that's what happened. In our experience our story ended up being a catalyst to help the church see that they were not being welcoming. We ended up in a different body, but saw that God used that experience to help others down the road. (I'm visiting from the Winsome Wednesday link up).

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  3. Thank you for the suggestion, Janice! My husband and I have been mulling that over as well. We don't want to be one of those people who complain. But, on the other hand, it is important to gently and lovingly let someone know so what might have been overlooked can be corrected in the future. I'm so glad that in your experience, your openness helped that particular church! Thanks for dropping by from Tracy's blog today!


    Blessings to you!


    Joan

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  4. Hi Sharon!


    I must admit that when I was writing my post, I wondered how things went for you (searching for a church) when you moved to your new mountain home! Small towns do come with the benefit of communities that are friendly and easy to get to know. I'm so glad that you have had such a positive experience!! Thank you for your kind words and your prayers! They are so appreciated!


    Trusting Him, Joan

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  5. Joan, I am so sorry. I do think you should let the Pastor know what happened. I know the church is made up of imperfect people, but I would think at a connection where one of the main things is to "get to know the new ones", well, they just fell short. Hugs!

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  6. I am sorry you and your husband are experiencing this Joan; I know exactly how you feel! After my church broke up a few years ago (one in which I dearly loved and was so involved in), we also visited many. We finally gave up and settled in a large church where we love the worship music and message. It has never replaced my previous church, and I have had trouble meeting people and getting involved too. I have prayed and prayed about it, and finally decided that God will put me in the right place, at the right time, with the right people to share my gifts WHEN the time is right! Meanwhile, I continue to just go and focus on worshiping Him and the message that it brings. I continue to pray for more desirable fellowship, and I will pray for you too! :)

    Blessings and bunches of hugs friend,
    Denise
    (PS....Chrome browser worked!!-thanks for suggesting!)

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  7. Thanks, Barbie! Connection is so important! Last Monday's experience was a great lesson for us because I'm sure someday the shoe will be on the other foot! I'll need to remember how I once felt and make the extra effort to reach out.


    Blessings, Joan

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  8. I'm so glad Chrome worked! I don't know what browser you had been using before, but I know IE has had some issues a while back. Anyway, glad you got through! Thanks for your comment...yes, it is all in God's timing. I know He has a plan and I am trusting Him for where He wants us to be. In the meantime, like you, I'll focus on worshiping and listening to Him!


    Hopeful, Joan

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  9. Looking for a new place of worship can be so daunting! Unfortunately, this seems to be a very common problem. We also had visited a few different churches, when we moved last year. There are several churches within minutes of our house, but none made us feel as welcome and filled as our old church. We finally decided the extra 10 minutes was worth continuing to go where we felt connected. (which is now about a 25 minute drive). I don't think the size of the church makes as much of a difference as does the leadership and the people attending there.(as our pastor is always saying, "The church really only is the body of believers.") When I read how nobody was wiling to let you sit at their table, it mortified me!! I don't think I'd like going to a church like that either! It reminded me of the story in the Bible of the poor man in shabby clothes who was sent to the back, and the rich man put in the front in the place of worship - James 2:1-9 (NIV). I will definitely be praying that the Lord leads to a welcoming, biblical church, my friend!
    Blessings, Ann

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  10. Well Joan...my first thought is, "Too bad for those people...look who they missed out on!" It makes me wonder how many times I have missed out on some jewel of a person who has been on my pathway. Thank you for sharing your heart. A powerful reminder to BE welcome to the people in my world. And one more thing...Can you move back here?

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  11. You have such a kind and caring heart, Joan, to take this as a learning experience! May He bless you richly! :)

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  12. Hi Joan! We sure can be unkind to each other, can't we? And I am sure those people had no idea how off-putting they were. You are right to take a long view, and decide that you won't do that yourself. At least that's a positive spin on a negative experience.


    I will learn from your situation too. I need to be that welcoming spirit. Inclusive and the reflection of God's love for us all.


    I hope you will find your new home soon.
    Ceil

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  13. Hi Val! Thanks for your sweet comment - you always make me smile! Yes, it is a good lesson for me, too...I don't want to miss out on being a hospitable person who willingly and generously reaches out to others! I hope you know that you are one of those generous people who always make others feel valued!


    Blessings, Joan


    P.S. Oh, and I love your last sentence above!! If God ever directs us back there you'll be one of the first to know!

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  14. Hi Ceil!


    Most of the time I'm a "glass half full" kind of girl. So when disappointments hit me like this one, I try to see or learn something positive from it. Thanks for your encouraging comment!


    Hopeful, Joan

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  15. Hi Joan,
    I'm currently on the search for a new church since a move. Oh how I can relate to this story! Sad but true. Not an isolated experience in the body of Christ! I am going tonight to a women's study at a church I visited on Saturday. it was not on my list of possibilities. I went there to experience Beth Moore's simulcast with a friend. It is her church. I walked in a stranger and left a friend. It was such a loving body of women! I am a single empty nester and it can be very difficult to connect in churches. I am hoping and praying this is my new home! You know how you just have a sense?! Please pray for me and I you as we both seek out 'home' and 'family'!

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  16. I will definitely pray for you! I so know what you mean about just having a "sense" about a place. Hopefully, you've already found your new church home and the Bible study you are going to tonight will fill you with much joy and many wonderful connections! Thanks for dropping by my blog today!


    Blessings & prayers, Joan

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  17. I sure would love THAT call! oxox

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  18. I've learned 2 things - one) is that when things are particularly frustrating so that it feels like you'll explode - sometimes that is before the big break-through, and, two)getting involved makes a huge difference - that's where relationships are built. However, I cannot imagine turning people away from my table. I cannot imagine finding other chairs to squeeze in. I cannot fathom that behavior. We are in a big church - - It is through the volunteerism, though, that we made relationships! Praying for you, Joan - praying you find the right church home. I found one when we moved to KY for 2 years in '09 and even though we've moved back "home" to our big church - I love my KY church - and how they touched my kids lives and my life - and the love they extended. Keep looking. You will find one that will pull you in, embrace you like family.

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  19. Thanks for your encouragement! We couldn't imagine what happened either. That is why we were so surprised. But, I know that we will find the right place for us, a place where God wants us to be. As for our experience last week, we are going to use that to better ourselves - I want to be even more aware of others and be more welcoming to the people around me. It is so easy to look inward, but we need to remember to look outward instead!


    Blessings, Joan

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