A Tale of Two Churches - A Place to BelongWednesday, September 18, 2013
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.
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.
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,