Monday, December 29, 2008

Here Is The Church

Church has changed for me. Or I have changed for church. I love church like I always have but it is much less a central part of my life than it once was. I don't feel guilty about that. But I do worry sometimes that I should feel guilty. We used to spend a lot of time physically at church. Teaching Sunday School, youth, volunteering. There early and staying late, we had our own keys to come and go. I organized the Christian Education department for years. The Mr. was the Music Director. When we weren't at church, we were with our church family or on the phone with them or planning an event.

When I became a nurse, by necessity I had to readjust the position of church in my life. I was working weekends for the first time ever. It was really hard to suddenly not be attending every weekend. Around the same time we started attending a new church. Maybe that was part of the "problem." Less opportunity to attend and not knowing anybody. Truthfully, I was not sad to have this change. Church had worn me out. Our new church did not have the traditional Sunday evening and Wednesday night services and I was glad. They had life groups, encouraging us to gather in homes to study and fellowship. We tried life groups. I believe we tried life groups five times and led about half of them. I don't like life groups. We forced ourselves to submit to the Metro's philosophy for a few years before we decided, no more life groups for us.
After thirty seven years of salvation and church attendance, I have no choice but to pursue God more for myself and stop depending on the church. The sermons rarely reveal a new truth to me. Yes, for a long time I did exactly what you are thinking I should do. I taught. And I loved it. But that season came and went too.
There are a lot of things about The Church I could criticize but that's not really the issue here. I am not less churchy because of bitterness or disappointment. The maturity gained from thirty seven years has already taken me through that phase and out the other side. On the other side is tremendous peace. Peace that the words or decisions of the Church People no longer keep me up at night. Peace that I can usually forgive in real time, as the offense happens. A result of those thirty seven years. Peace that I can know what things are my responsibility and what things are not, and to mind my own business. Peace that teaching can happen in a million different ways that are informal and title-free. Peace that learning can happen when I'm driving to work with the radio off and God has replaced a guy behind a lectern.
I have peace that in all of those church relationships that used to be held together with constant contact, we have come full circle. We see each other rarely and keep tabs on one another constantly. We love eternally. We do not hold each other's feet to the flames for blunders but hold each other's lives to the throne for anointing. Now that I have internal permission to find my own way, I have learned to love and be loved in freedom.
Today when people ask where I go to church, I say Metrosouth. Because that is the building that houses The Church. But in truth, I go to church continually. After all these years, the sermons that no longer challenge have been replaced by sermons preached in blizzarding skies and tangible joy that overtakes me when I quiet myself before my King. I am changed by the sermons that ring from memories of provision that have redefined memories of hardship. I am lifted up by sermons whispered from old ladies in the hospital who grab my hand in their gnarled fingers and say, "You have a blessed day Baby."
And what of worship? Mmm. Worship has worn so many robes in my life. The worship of a little girl who doesn't comprehend the miracle of salvation but acknowledges God out of obedience. The worship of a teenager trying to channel the angst and drama of her emotions into a power to touch God. The worship of a desperate young mom begging God to look in her direction. The worship of an adult grateful for safe passage thus far. Today I wear the worship of a woman continually astonished at the discovery of God in life. No longer do I journey to church to find him and try to store up enough to last until the next time. Worship has replaced the list of fears I used to share in prayer. It has become the larger part of my relationship with God, outbalancing the begging for help. I have become a woman who repents by worship, petitions by worship, asks by worship, loves by worship. I have found that fear cannot remain in the presence of my worship and so...I worship.
I don't sit in church as often as I used to. I hold no title. I am unofficial in every sense. Those who attend the same building as I might tell you that I am drifting. That I am a pew warmer. Although without my bottom in the pew, I doubt I could even claim that. Sometimes the enemy tells me that church has died for me. That is a lie. What has happened is that church has enlarged for me. Like a marriage that has stood the test of time, the bride sees her husband's love in the snow he clears, the wrinkles that have appeared in the years he has stood by her, the gentle kiss in passing. I am no longer a newlywed who is in need of reassurance. I know who I am in Christ. Who I am in The Church matters very little.
This church of mine no longer has walls or official times. The worship, learning, fellowship and service are continuous and without schedule. This church meets in India sometimes or Nothern Idaho or Pennsylvania; that's right. Some days this blog is my church. My church does not have choir robes, its members wander in wearing hospital gowns, jeans, pajamas and often a Scarf. My church does not have a song service because it sings constantly although not always out loud and not always in words. My church has no by-laws, only honest self-examination and grace spoken here. My church family is huge and includes Christian men and women who honor me with their wisdom and mentorship, friends who meet me for coffee and admit that they sometimes can't stand The Church. My church family are gays, childhood friends, atheists, old people, little kids, schizophrenics, drug addicts, missionaries, prostitutes, back-sliders, seekers and deniers. When you remove the walls, anybody can walk in to your church.
I love church. The Church and my church. I don't know how long this season will last for me. It is a glorious freedom to find that I am the church after all and also a grave responsibility to see to it that this doesn't become laziness. After all, no one is keeping track of the books in this church.
This is Sunday morning and I am attending church. Right now. I'm wearing a sweat shirt and pajama pants. It is snowing like crazy outside and the temperature is freezing. My kids are healthy and safe and warm and asleep. My husband is at Metrosouth playing bass. And I got out of bed,made a pot of coffee and went to church. I am in Christ, I am in church.
More than ever in my life, I am in church.

Ephesians 1:21-23Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Written 12/21/08


tina fabulous said...

youre beautiful.

(i'm in your non-church church, right?)

Margie said...

great post!

Deb said...


Trish said...

Yes, WE are the Church! I have done some pulling back myself...don't go on Wednesday nights and not too often on Sunday nights. I feel we live extremely busy lives and we have to have some alone time...Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest...not anymore! I still need Church just not every activity, every time the door is open. Taking care of my Grandbabies all week is a ministry
in itself...who better to teach these little ones than a Grammy who sings to them about Jesus. And if people don't understand that I need time for myself...I will answer to the Lord, not people.
Good Post.

Louise said...

Excellent post my Thara. A young man spoke at our 'church' last Sunday and his sermon was 'come out from among them' and he talked about how we put 'christian' labels on 'worldly' things and expect them to change. Not so. Only God can change what truly needs changing ... the heart of man. Our labels do little except make us feel superior in some way. Indeed, we ARE the church and as this young man said, we are ALL ministers ... not with the same giftings, but with the same purpose ... to glorify our Father in all we do. Wherever that may be.
I loveth thee. You are a blessing.

Jada's Gigi said...


Mrs. Mac said...

This message has been a confirmation about my current non church building church attendance. I no longer feel guilty nor compelled to work out schedules to attend a church building service and haven't for some time. I no longer want to try to fit my unique family into a square peg opening that doesn't fit ...(or exist) just to fit in. I'm tired and worn out and take comfort that God visits with me when I'm in my PJ's in the morning hours before everyone else is up. Sometimes he even sups with me by having coffee. Your so wise Miss Sara in letting loose of the church walls. Your blog title says it all, "To everything there is a season ..." You offer help to the unloveliest of people on the Sabboth Day ... what greater church could that be?? You are living as a vital part of the Body of Christ ... the Church Perfected.