Here is the last decade of my church journey in a nut shell:
We (as in hubs and I) were a part of a wonderful and vibrant church community in Boulder. It grew. Things got messy, because, let's face it, church is messy. Many of the people we called friends left the church deeply hurt. We weren't hurt, except that we were lonely, our friends were gone and we were having babies at an alarming rate. I don't recommend having 3 babies in 3.5 years, especially if you are prone to postpartum depression - but that's another story.
Church was a half an hour away and had ceased being a community of friends and had become a guilt inducing event to attend every week. We decided that there was really no point in driving so far to participate in a guilt inducing event...there were churches everywhere, minutes from home. Guilt is easy to come by.
So we quit going to the far away church and began attending an enourmous nearby church. We became wallpaper. We went to the gigantor church for almost 2 years and didn't know a single soul. I wish I could say that I minded. But nope. I liked it. Invisible is nice, and far tidier than the messy vibrant church we'd left.
But then God began to do a thing. An uncomfortable thing. He opened my eyes to the orphan crisis. He made us discontent with McChurch; I'd like fries with that. We saw that we were meant to live in community and we were called to be kingdom minded. We were meant to go...we were supposed to care for the least of these...we were to engage in a battle.
About that time a long time friend of ours started a home church. Home church was a new idea for us. Many churches start out as small groups meeting in homes with the intent of launching out and becoming a "normal" church with a building and a staff and decent worship music. That's NOT the idea of home church. Home church is suposed to be reproducible little units that always meet in homes and are run by lay-people. It's supposed to fly under the radar, and minimize overhead costs. It's supposed to be egalitarian and fluid.
We decided that God was calling us away from McChurch to a good old fashioned homecooked church. It's hard to be invisible at the family dinner table. It's hard to go unnoticed. Home church was good to us. It was a meat and potatoes affair. Lots of Bible Study; lots of shared meals; lots of praying; and lots of terribly out of tune worship. Community.
It was this little church that stood with us as we waited and waited in fost-adopt. It was this little church, and other dear friends who supplied us with gluten-free meals for over a month. It was this little church who bought Baby clothes and diapers, and a high-chair. They were the ones that prayed with us when Baby was in the hospital those first weeks. We loved our little home church, but there was a logistical delimma. It was a half an hour away - and our newest addition HATED car rides. Going to church meant we had to endure an hour of screaming. We needed community in our community - and that is, actually, part of the point.
And so it was that we found Jacob's Well Community Church - which served really good coffee.
Even though we were on the outside we could tell that there was a real sense of community at this church. People genuinely liked and cared for each other. They genuinely welcomed us into their midst. Plus, the coffee was really good.
A year and a half later we are still at Jacob's Well. Only now we aren't on the outside. We know and care for the people of Jacob's Well. We are invested. And, ah...it's a little messy. Because, let's face it, church is messy. We love it anyway.
But here's the kicker...Jacob's Well isn't a home church. It's not meant to be. The leadership has deliberately created a culture where anyone, at anyplace in their spiritual journey, feels welcome and comfortable. It doesn't sugar coat the truth; it just doesn't churchify it. It's a "come" church; a sanctuary.
Part of me really likes this (and the coffee), but part of me wonders, "Isn't the church meant to go?" Aren't we supposed to GO.
go over the walls...
go into the streets...
go into the prisons and the orphanges...
and the suburbs.
What would it look like then if we were about going and not so much about getting people to come. What would it be?
Unbalanced, perhaps. I don't know.
Church: a community we come to, and a place where we go out from. Hub and spokes. The vehicle God had in mind reach the world. It's a balancing act, this coming and going. The tension between community, safety, and risk and adventure.