Sunday, April 17, 2011

Today I miss the church.

I believe in the church. I know that it's full of people that just don't have it all together (because not even the best of us do) but I believe there's a reason that God laid things out for us to meet together, to learn together, to worship together and to generally do life together. He planned the church, the assembly, the gathering of His people. I believe that when God's people gather and do His kingdom work, there is hope there. He has invited us to join together with Him on His mission to do good things, beautiful things, redeeming things in this world. I dream about the things that could be accomplished on this earth if we, the church, lived to our full potential and I long for the day when the Church could truly be a picture of Jesus here on earth. Even in our imperfection as an "organization," I don't believe that it's possible to fully live and experience the Christian life apart from some form of church community.

That said, I don't remember the last time I went to church. Don't get me wrong, I work at a church. I spend all week thinking about the "doing" of church. I am at a church every week but I don't remember the last time I actually "went" to church and I miss it. I feel hungry for corporate times of worship with my peers. I long for teaching and conversation that stirs the soul and reminds me of something bigger (and better!) than myself. I want to belong and truly be a part of something. I want to encourage and be encouraged. I want to listen to and share in the prayers of His people. I hope to grow and become more like Jesus and more like the me He has created me to be. It's important to care and be cared for. And I don't just mean on Sunday.

I wonder if there's others out there that work in churches that feel the same way. I'll be the first to say that there is something very rewarding about working with kids like I do, about leading them and teaching them in the ways of Jesus. It is a privilege and a gift. They look at God's word and work in the world in such refreshing ways. I guess that's why Scripture talks about the importance of coming to Him like a little child. I don't think it's just about the humility of a child but also the awe, the wonder and the perspective they have when they approach the throne of grace. There's good stuff that happens in me as I lead them. I know it. I believe it. And yet, it's still not going to church most weeks. It's going to work. Kids need leaders and leaders need "stuff." Most of that "stuff" comes from me so that they can do their thing. I'm watching the clock to ensure that I make good use of my time and get all parts of the lesson in. I'm "on," a performer presenting truth. Set up, make sure everything goes smoothly and then pack it all up again. By the time that's all done, most people are gone to go about their week. If conversation does happen with a grown up somewhere during the week, it's usually about the kids, the programs, about resources for them as they lead their kids and about the things they need to learn and grow. I ensure that all of my leaders are on a good rotation that allows for them regular times of worship with the larger body but that has not been an option for me and may not be for a long time so what do I do?

How do I stay full enough and whole enough to continue to give them the things they need? I feel like that's the paradox of ministry. I go to church but don't really go to church, not in the way that was intended. I feed (I hope) but am not really fed. I lead but am not led. I provide an environment for people to be encouraged and spurred on, sent into another week, Lord willing, while I walk away exhausted and wondering how to put one foot in front of the other. Again, I ask, what do I do to ensure that I have something to give?

I know there's no easy answers. I cringe when I hear someone talking about "practicing good self care" because I feel like that's so much easier said that done. As if by saying it some magic light bulb will come on and everything will be made right. "Oh yes, I didn't realize that's what I was supposed to be doing. Thank you for your wisdom." In so many ways, I know myself and what fills me up but am not sure how to make that happen in the current context. Intentions are good. Practicality is harder. I was told recently that I should go to a different church at a different time to be fed but to me that seems silly. Perhaps I'm looking at it wrong but first and foremost, I think of the time factor. In an already busy schedule, I see more scheduled time. Then I think of all the things I believe church should be and most, if not all, center around being a part of community, not around consuming, even though I know there's a part of me that may simply need to consume. To truly be a part of a church, I want to know and be known, not slip into the back row with a bunch of strangers.

I've tried increasing my dose of music and online teaching but again, that's about consuming and, from the comfort of my own living room, still seems to be lacking in something. Community perhaps? Reading His Word, prayer and times with Him are critical, vital and life giving (Have I stressed the importance of this enough?) but again, not solely in isolation.

There you have it. There are no easy answers on my mind tonight, only a lot of questions and heart that is heavy. Today I miss the church.


Mama Bean said...

I've often worried about this happening for you (yes, I worry about you :) because i know your dedication to you job is so consuming - and so 'going to church' does become "just" your job. Reading this makes me miss our small group :) i don't have any solutions, though. just know i worry and pray about it :)

Anonymous said...

I also don't have solutions but I wonder if our pastors feel a similar way and wonder how they deal with this?