A Church to Call Home

We went to a new church.

It’s hard to search for a new church home when you are on the road as much as I am. I won’t be able to get back to church for four weeks due to travel.

We’ve tried a few others lately but it’s hard to find a church. I imagine it to be like an adoption, you want to find the right family, not a perfect family, but the one that will be just the right fit.

For a few weeks, we just gave up looking.

There’s a big city 30 miles up the road from here. They have vibrant churches. A couple of mega-churches with in-depth teaching, Zumba on Tuesdays and a coffee-house.

But gas is $4 a gallon. No way we are going to be running up and down the road to a church in a community where we don’t even live. I’m married to the man who wouldn’t even teach in a community where he didn’t live. He believes in living in community, and teaching in community, and worshipping in community.

He’s read the Bible, the entire thing, so many times I’ve lost count. He reads the New Testament from his Greek Bible. He carries it to church with him sometimes.

I’ve been known to carry novels with me to read.

Mostly because I bore easily.

I love a complicated sermon. One that makes me think about something I’ve never considered before, the way Ann Voskamp or Rachel Held Evans or Hugh Hollowell and Scot McKnight do with their writings.

If I could, I would attend church at Antioch in Bend, Oregon every Sunday because I just love the way Pastor Ken Wytsma is able to take me through on a winding path of truths. But I don’t actually live in Bend. I just like to pretend I do.

I live in a small, rural farming community.

I love living here because the airport is thirty minutes up the road without any traffic. I rarely stand in line anywhere, and if my husband falls ill while I’m on the road, friends will drop what they are doing to get him some help. That’s happened a couple of times now, so I know it’s true.

But living in an isolated area can have its drawbacks. One of those is the lack of choices, in places to eat — better like Chinese or Mexican — and churches —  Conservative or more Conservative.

It can be frustrating.

But I need community.

I need to know that when I am on the road that there is a community of people at home, praying for me. I need a community of people who believe that the books I write are as much a mission as getting on a plane and flying to Haiti, or offering a cup of coffee to the homeless.

“Do you have the gift of intercession?” a woman asked me today following the church service.

“No, I do not,” I said.

“You don’t?” she seemed surprised.

“No. My daughter does. She has that gift but that is not a gifting of mine. I will, however, pray for you.”

I know this woman. I know what she needs most besides my prayers is a good health insurance plan. She hears from demons all the time. They taunt her. They torture her. She goes without sleep. She can’t focus. Her thoughts are not her own thoughts. She needs a good doctor and medical care. A doctor who will make sure she gets all the drugs she needs to shut out the voices. But she doesn’t have medical care because she can’t work, because she hears voices all the time.

It was our first visit to the church she attends.

It’s a very small church, part of what they say is a dying denomination, like so many churches today.

I don’t mind small.

I think Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove got it exactly right when he explained in THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDY GRIFFITH why we all loved Andy Griffith and Mayberry so much.

Of course, many of the people at this church already know who we are, as would be the case with any church we visit in this rural community. Hard to be discreet when searching for a new church home when everybody already knows your name.

I have a family member who chooses church on the basis of his ability to remain anonymous. He does not want to build a relationship with anyone at church. He does not want anyone to know his daily routines. He does not want to join a care group or have a pastor pray for him. He does not want anyone close enough in his life that he might have to be held accountable for his choices. If his wife fell ill, he would not have anyone to call other than family.

Most Americans don’t live that close to family any more, so we need the community of church in the worst way.  But most of us just hate going about searching for a family that will adopt us and love us, unconditionally.

I don’t want to be part of a family where nobody knows my name.

I don’t want to be part of a family that is mean to outsiders or dismissive of their own family members.

I don’t want to be part of a family that is more concerned about the family business than they are the people they serve.

I don’t want to be part of a family where the only thing they read is the bible.

I want to be part of a family made up of great storytellers.

A family who is rich in experiences, and history.

A family for whom faith isn’t something they put on for Sundays, but something they live out everyday.

A family comprised of all ages, shapes, sizes, and color.

A family who embraces the mentally ill, the physically challenged, the contrarian, the gay, the gray, the ornery, and the littlest of these,  and promises to love them to Jesus,

A family who laughs, and sings, and weeps and prays, and serves together.

A church to call home.

Are you searching for family? Or do you have a church to call home?

 

 

 

 

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • Lizi

    Been searching for years…discouraged

  • Rachel Shetterly

    Finding community in a little group that’s starting to meet. I call it my Supplemental Energy Group! :) Haven’t been in church since Christmas Day. Can probably count the number of times since then on one hand that someone has asked specifically to my face where I have been and how things are going. I’m looking for authentic community. Not community cause I’m drinkin’ the kool-aid.

  • D.Tracy

    I confess, this one is hard to read. Difficult because I understand and have many of the same longings. Difficult because I don’t feel I have a choice at this point. Sad because we may be the only “liberals” left. Yes, I’m looking for a home… and community…. but it is rare to find it on Sundays at 10:30 . You are an occasional glimpse for me.

  • Gloria

    Your words once again hit home. An accepting community would be so very wonderful. I am always afraid though that once they know me, really know me they won’t accept me – warts and all. When I go I attend a fairly large church in a very small town. Some know my name some do not and I don’t believe anyone knows my true heart. Thank you for making me once again face myself.

  • A65roger

    Throughout the nineteenth and much of the twenthieth centuries in North America, finding “church” meant staying within the believing/practicing community of your ethnicity or immigrant group. “Churches” became synonymous with bricks and mortar–which many of them were. Evangelism was by and large gestational. We made more members by having kids. Demographics change. How many people shop for food, shoes and clothing at neighborhood stores today? We don’t. We drive miles to the big new ones. And the old ones die. Now we drive miles to the “attractive” church, passing others by right and left, to find the one that suits us. Christ’s church or consumer product?

    There’s a story in today’s paper about how the forest canopy of Portland will be changing. 100-year-old trees will have to be replaced. The tree specialist quoted in the story said trees are like people: they eat, they breathe, they die. I submit that churches do too.

    A couple of years ago, an Evangelical pastor I knew returned from another state in frustration. He’d gone back to the congregation he’d planted two decades ago hoping to referee a conflict and help them move forward. He felt he’d failed, and he concluded that maybe it would be best if all churches had a lifespan of 25 years after which they would dissolve and regroup. May be a great deal of wisdom in that. The kingdom of God wouldn’t vanish, and the church as the bride of Christ wouldn’t cease to exist. To the contrary, perhaps she could emerge from behind her many veils for the first time. Rebirth is, after all, sorta central to our theology and doctrine.

    “Church” for me has become the group of volunteers who provide a simple supper for our homeless and low income guests. It’s the two AA vets who help at Bible study night. It’s sharing their griefs and joys as they share ours. It’s G, the one-armed man with a heart for God’s kingdom as big as the Rocky Mountains. It’s T who finds the most amusing religious cartoons in back issues of the New Yorker. It’s R who prays weekly to stay out of prison and complete his probation. It’s A who came on her bicycle in blue scrubs from the burn unit at the trauma center to play sweet music on the baby grand with the big, ugly white spots in the crackly aging varnish on its lid.

    It’s gathering around tables and chairs in a fellowship hall of a downtown church with a dirt floor basement that grows puddles and ponds in our wet months–where our giveaway blankets and clothing are stored… It’s S, the Army vet, who recently lost one of his 13 younger siblings but has returned to this city where he has climbed out of eight years of homelessness back to housing and employment. At his dying brother’s bedside, S contacted us via Facebook to ask for prayer. We were church to him. Community. Home. The kingdom of God. All of the above.

    I never expected church to be this or to look like this, but it’s now about the only church I can think of honestly as church. In the five-plus years we have been gathering, an offering of nearly $10,000 has gone out the door, every red cent, to food pantries, Haiti, Japan, Joplin, Chile, Somalia. And now we are starting a new venture: our nickles and dimes and pennies and dollars will go to help wage war against malaria in Africa where 90% of the world’s cases exist.

    There’s a difference between doing church and being church. And if our gut tells us we don’t fit where we are, it may be the Holy Spirit’s call not to go “find” another church but to go “found” another church–without going in with some kind of preconceived crystal palace notion of what it will become. Christ never calls us to things in order to set us up for failure. We do that for ourselves. If we let ourselves “be” the church, we will find all the church we ever need.

    • alishadefreitas

      Your comment was awesome! It’s actually a post of its own. I especially like your point about being the church as opposed to just doing church.

      Great comment.

  • alishadefreitas

    Great post, Karen. This subject of church was on my mind today: http://far-above-rubies-and-pearls.blogspot.com/2012/07/quitting-church-sucks-but-what-happens.html

    I belong to a church, but I can’t say I totally feel at home… :-(

  • Sharon O

    Our church is home to us although we have been there over 8 years and know about 25 people. There was a season of time where I thought ‘Lord we need to move on…no one really cares’… then my husband got a scare with a liver issue that required an MRI and scans and we waited. It took three weeks for the results to come back to us and in that three weeks we were prayed for, we were encouraged, we were shown that others did care. It was amazing.
    So we remain at this church and since the liver ‘biopsy’ was good, we rejoice in God’s faithfulness.
    He does answers our prayers in ways we often do not understand. Great is HIS faithfulness.

  • Steve

    A friend of mine posted on his Facebook page a few weeks ago that he’d finally found a church he felt comfortable in. It had plenty of artists and people like himself. I couldn’t help but wonder, though… is this what Jesus wanted? Are Christians really meant to search for the Church that suits them best? Are we supposed to feel such anxiety over finding the right place for us?

    The first time I understood the Church was on Ash Wednesday in 2003 when I was in high school. We walked around all day getting weird looks with the smudges on our forehead, but I felt an instant kinship with people whom I didn’t even know. And then I see that union extends in time 2000 years back to the upper room.

    No matter where I go, no matter what the music is like, no matter the quality of the preaching, not matter what the architecture is, no matter how friendly the people are … as long as there is the reading of Scripture, the recitation of the creed, and those beautiful words “This is my body, this is my blood, do this in remembrance of me,” … I know I’m home.

  • Eric

    I moved to NC eight years ago and have attended the same church for all eight years. It became a home once I got involved. Before then, I did not like the music and only knew people from my employment that attend my church. Now I love the music, have made new friends, contribute to the church and pray every day that our congregation will grow in faith and charity. The only thing that changed over the eight years was me.


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